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" Hold her tighter Ken-san! All this moving around will cause her wounds to reopen!" Kenshin already knew that. He knew that since Kaoruís wounds started to close without any medical help, there was no need to stitch them. But, her sudden movements will cause the fragile skin to tear open again. If that happens, then she might bleed to death. The only quick, effective way to close the wounds and stop the bleeding was to apply direct heat. The two ways to do this was to either spread gunpowder on her skin and light it up, the explosion forcing the skin to close, or, by heating a metal rod till it was red-hot and pressing it to the wounds. He cringed at the thought of using those procedures on Kaoru, especially since she had already been through enough pain. While holding on to Kaoruís arms, gently but firmly, he cursed the man who was responsible for Kaoruís torment. Suddenly, he felt her go limp in his arms. Her breathing slowed down, and she sagged onto the bed. He slowly let go of her. "Is she okay now?" he whispered to Megumi, his eyes never leaving Kaoru.

" I donít knowÖ"

Sano ran as fast as he could, a bag of ice in his hand. He was almost at the dojo. As he turned a corner, he thought I swear! When I get my hands on that dam-" Before he could finish the thought, a long leg appeared out of nowhere and tripped him. Sano was pissed. Who would be out this late at night? This was a very bad time for someone to pick a fight with him. "Che! What the hell do you think youíre doing?! You-" Sano felt his jaw drop almost to the ground. "YOU!!!" Youíre alive!! He got up and stood face to face with Saitoh, who had a very amused grin on his face. "Careful, a fly might get into your mouth," he said in that annoying superior tone. Sano shook his head, he can fight the ghost later. First, he had to get to the dojo. Throwing the "Wolf" an icy look, he brushed past him and ran on. Saitoh looked at him thoughtfully. Looks like Iím too late*

Five hours later, Kaoru woke up. The first thing she saw was Kenshin, who, sat against the wall next to her and appeared to be asleep. Then, she took in Sano and Megumiís appearance. The two were leaning against the wall across from her. Megumiís head rested on Sanoís shoulder. She sat up slowly and quietly. She wondered why everyone was in her room. Her confusion didnít stay with her for long as she kept staring at the pair in front of her. Her heart began to ache. They looked so natural together. Sanoís hand covered Megumiís own hand protectively, and possessively. Sano really loves Megumi. Although he shows it in a childish manner, arguing and fighting with her all the time, he really does love her. Itís obvious to everyone, except himself. Thoughts of a certain swordsman and the impossible feelings she wished him to have for herself ran through her mind. She smoothed at the blanket on her futon, trying to smooth away her fantasies. She suddenly felt the midnight chill on her bare skin. Thinking that her Kimono must have gotten loose, she moved her hands to pull it tighter around her, when she saw herself. Saw the deliberately parted Kimono, hastily tied back by hands other than her own. Saw the raised sleeves, she saw everything.

Kenshin gazed at Kaoru from under his hair. She seemed okay. He averted his eyes when he saw her reach into her kimono. She must be checking her injuries. He then heard a suspicious sound. It sounded like something sliding. Like a knife being unsheathed. He raised his head up just in time to see Kaoru plunge a knife into her heart.

"Kaoru-donno! Donít!" Using the speed that allowed him to defeat Soujiro, Kenshin grabbed Kaoruís arm. And not a second too early. The razor sharp end of the knife entered the folds of Kaoruís kimono, but did not go any further.

Sano and Megumi, who were woken up by Kenshin's cry, were staring hard at both of them, their mouths open in shock. Kenshin gaped at Kaoru, who glared back at him. He was horrified at what almost happened. Kaoru looked at him in cold fury.

"You were awake," it was a statement, not a question, and though it came from Kaoruís lips, it was not said in her voice, it was said in voice that Kenshin did not recognize, one that did not match Kaoru. Or maybe it did, the way Kaoru was now. Kenshin realized that Kaoru did this on purpose. That her goal wasn't suicide but.. what are her intentions? She wanted to test him, but, why? What did she expect from him? Kaoru smirked at him.

"Donít look so shocked, Kenshin." Shaking her head, she yanked her arm from him, sheathed the knife, and returned it inside her Kimono. She then glared at Sano, Kenshin and Megumi, each at a time.

"You just canít take a hint can you? Why do you have to get involved with something that has NOTHING to do with you!!!!

"Demo Kaoru, we just wanted to help.." Megumi started.

"And did you, Megumi-san? No! You canít help one can. Instead, you drugged me, exposed me, while I was asleep, just to satisfy your curiosity!

"That was low, even for you Batthou-Sai," the person who said that had a low, self assured voice that came from the corner of the room. Everyone looked that way to see Saitoh, standing against the wall.

"You are alive! I was starting to think I had imagined you back there!"

"Ahou. Iím too important to die so easily," Saitoh answered calmly.

"Saitoh, how long were you standing there, and why are you here?" Kenshin demanded.

" Long enough," he answered with a smug grin "I came to warn you that someone might be after the girl. I guess you already know. Anyway, I have to go question her."

"Wha.., whoís after Kaoru?" Sano asked.

"And what do you mean go?" Megumi added. "Kaoru is right her-" She turned to where Kaoru was. No one was there. She turned back, Kenshin and Saitoh were gone. She and Sano looked at each other, bewildered.

Kenshin looked at Kaoru. He had followed her until she stopped and sat in front of a tree in the dojoís yard. Because he had kept a safe distance away, she didnít notice him. He looked at her, sitting there. Thinking again about what she had done, her conversation with Megumi, and her attempted suicide. He now knew that she didn't really try to kill herself she was just challenging him. But why? Why donít you just ask her? A voice in his head suggested. He pondered the thought for awhile. Maybe I will. Kaoru and I have always been able to talk about anything before. Well, almost..? They had certainly never talked about their feelings for each other, or why he didnít say anything to her when she first came to him in Kyoto. Who was he kidding? The only thing they did talk about was Yahikoís training or his newest enemy. Well, thereís a first time for everything. I will talk to her and I will find out whatís going on. With his mind made up, he headed toward! s her. When he arrived, he stood in front of her. She raised her head and looked at him with determined eyes. Before he could say anything to her, she said something that made him forget everything he had wanted to ask her.

"Kenshin," she started out, her voice strong and clear, "I love you."

Kenshin blinked. Did she just sayÖKenshins mind froze. How was he supposed to answer her? What could he possibly say? As if she could read his thoughts, she continued, "You donít need to say anything Kenshin, but, I do. I need to say this. I meant what I said." As she continued talking, her voice became weaker, as if it was tired from the strain of saying the first words out loud.

"Kaoru-donno....quot; Kenshin's voice was low. Why was she telling him this now of all times? She looked up at him, her eyes earnest, as if she thought he wouldnít believe her. She raised her right hand, closed it into a fist, and held it to her chest.

"It hurts." Kenshin looked at her. Aside from the cuts and bruises on her face, she looked lovely. Her night-blue eyes, full of tears, looked like stars.

"It hurts Kenshin, here more than anywhere elseÖthatís why."

Kenshin finally started to register what she was saying. He used to think that her attachment to him was her way of dealing with her loneliness; clearly, that was not the case. But, he was confused. If she meant what she had said, then why did she say what she did Megumi? This is not the time Kaoru was in front of him. Clearly waiting for an answer. But what could he say? She looked very vulnerable; he wanted to comfort her, to draw her close. But what if she took his behavior the wrong way? What if she thought it meant he returned her feelings? Did he? Not really He did to some extent but not that way, not the way she wanted him to. He knew what he had to do. Knowing that what he was going to say would cause her even more pain, not bearing the thought of seeing the effect of his words on her face, he looked away.

"Gomen, Kaoru-donno, I canít say that I have the same feelings for you." Kaoru drew in a sharp, shaky breath.

"Why, Kenshin," she asked, her voice quivering. He didnít answer her.

"Gomenasai," he said looking back at her, and regretted it instantly. She looked absolutely devastated, shattered.

Che, Iím gonna kill him, thought Sano who was looking at the pair from behind a tree. He decided to hear Kaoruís reply, before doing anything drastic.

"I-I understand." she answered, her voice thick with the strain of keeping herself together. " Iím sorry I put you in an awkward position." Kuso! Iím definately gonna kill him, Sano decided. He saw Kaoru turn away from Kenshin. "If you donít mind, I would like to be alone." Then, she waited for him to leave.

Does she really expect me to leave her after what just happened? Kenshin thought.

Go Kenshin, just go away. Kaoru thought. She needed some time to sort things out, pull herself together. She couldnít do that with him here so close to her. Kenshin just stood there. He didnít seem to understand what was going on. Not that I blame him. I donít understand what is happening. Suddenly, her hurt turned to anger. Other than the fact that he, Megumi and Sano sneaked in to my room andÖ The mere thought made Kaoru feel so angry it scared her. The change of emotions was so sudden. It was a bursting anger, and was going to explode in Kenshinís face if he didnít leave now.

"Kenshin," she said through clenched teeth, "please leave. Now." Kenshin started walking, but towards her, and not away. As he came closer, Kaoru panicked. She backed away from him, but he didnít stop. She didnít need to blow up in his face again. Things were bad as they were. As he walked towards her, she felt something else. She was afraid, afraid of him, of herself, of everything. She turned around and ran into the dojo without a second glance at him.

"Whatís wrong with your woman, Battou-Sai, she seems to be trying to get away from you." Saitoh taunted, coming out of nowhere, looking back at Kaoru. Kenshin shut his eyes tight. He had been so focused on Kaoru that he didnít notice Saitohís presence.

"This is very interesting, looks like instead of being a cold-blooded killer, youíve become a cold-blooded heartbreaker." Saitoh continued, enjoying himself. It took all of Kenshinís willpower, but he let Saitohís comment pass.

"Why did you come here Saitoh?"

"Actually, I would have come sooner if I knew your life was becoming this interesting," It was clear that Saitoh was not gonna drop the matter easily. "As I told your gangster friend and the Takani, I came to talk with the Kamiya girl, about something that happened to her recently," Saitoh paused, then smiled as he continued, "something that I feel might interest you....."

To be contiuned...


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