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Affiliates: The Sheath :: The Crouching Tiger's Realm

Blood and Snow
Chapter 23

by: Yasai-chan

           Kaoru grew annoyed with wandering around the perimeter of the pit. It was mild and easy, and she could very well survive the next three months doing it, but something told her it was time to do something more. She would never forgive herself if she didn't venture in. Something drew her like a moth to an open flame.

           She veered off her course and headed deeper into the pit. Not far inward, she found a small crowd surrounding something that seemed like a beaten body, crying out as they beat it more. Kaoru rushed in, her eyes going wild, remembering the boy who had been almost torn apart the same way.

           She slashed across one side, catching the group off guard, cutting cleanly through one and seriously injuring two others. They'd bleed to death shortly. The crowd backed away from the body and rushed at her, she briefly saw the body prop itself up on its elbows as it watched her in astonishment. Then she was overtaken by the twelve others.

           They wielded sharpened weapons made of bone, but her sword easily blocked and cut them away with quick precise slashes. Her movements were all real close to her body, everything moving like perfectly counterbalanced weights. If she crouched down, she easily flowed up afterwards, timing everything exactly.

           When all was finished nameless bodies once again surrounded her. They had faces, but she didn't care, looking down at them empty, wondering if it was wrong of her to feel no remorse. She looked up again, remembering the man who had been attacked.

           He couldn't have been much older than Enishi; His hair was cut just below his ears, unevenly as if a dull blade had sawn it off. His eyes were a light gray and his face was unblemished, a rare thing around here. Kaoru tilted her head to the side as she measured him up.

           "Why haven't I heard of you?" The man asked, staring in wonder. Kaoru met his eyes with her own.

           "Why would you, the pit is a big place." The man looked at her curiously.

           "You've been here for more than a month I can tell, so why don't you know?" he said more to himself than her "This place is run by a brutal but well organized group. Nothing of any interest happens without Mao Ming knowing about it. He's in the center by the lake." Kaoru raised her eyebrows at that.

           "There's a lake?" she asked. The man laughed

           "Sort of. It's about twenty feet across and eleven feet deep in the middle, but it's water, and that's power here. Water may not be thicker than blood but you can live off of it." He said placing his arms behind his head. "Hey, you want to come with me to Mao?" the man asked.

           "I don't even know you." Kaoru said "And don't mistake me, my intention wasn't to save you." She finished, starting to walk away.

           "But it's dangerous that way!" he said, panicking. Kaoru looked over her shoulder at him, a look that obviously said she thought he was a nuisance. The man ran after her when she started traveling out of site. "Well then I'll just follow you, my name's Khean," he said. Kaoru glared at him, obviously annoyed. They walked for hours, neither one saying a word. Kaoru finally turned around;

           "That's not a Chinese name." She said, stating a fact. Khean grinned toothily.

           "No, It's Cambodian" he stated. Kaoru started walking again and he energetically strode after her. "Man that must have been bugging you for a while." He said. "You didn't say anything for a long time"

           "How old are you anyway" Kaoru returned flippantly "Shut up already" Khean smiled all the wider.

           Enishi dozed off in his seat on the balcony. He hadn't left his watch the whole three months, usually only sleeping when he knew she'd be safe for a while. It was rare, and the fatigue had finally overtaken him against his will.

           "Enishi" a voice called out to him softly "Enishi wake up" He opened his eyes; Kaoru was standing on front of him. He almost fell out of his chair in surprise.

           "What are you doing here?" he asked.

           "Visiting you," she said to him "I got bored" Kaoru smiled. Enishi glared at her.

           "You aren't Kaoru." He said.

           "No, of course not silly, you're dreaming." The kaoru-dream said, floating to a seat in front of him. "You should really take care of yourself more. Stop fawning over the girl so much."

           "Shut up" Enishi said sourly, standing and walking over to the balcony, looking for Kaoru below. An energetic looking man was following her. "Who's he," Enishi muttered to himself.

           "Oooh, now you know you're sleeping. You'd never be so expressive if you were awake." The pseudo-Kaoru said. Enishi looked over at her with a look that was a blatant duh. "You love her you know" It said.

           "Why are you bothering me with things I already know, aren't dreams supposed to give you actual useful insights or something?" Enishi said, gripping the railing in frustration. Why hadn't he woken up yet?

           "I know you know it" dream-Kaoru said "But does she" Kaoru's hand pointed to the figure walking in the pit below. Enishi grew silent.

           "If this is a dream…" he started "Can't I hold her?" Everything grew silent for a moment.

           "You can hold meeeee…" pseudo-Kaoru said, rubbing against his side. Enishi shoved her away.

           "I don't want you, I want her," Enishi said growling at the apparition "Why are you here, I didn't make you up" the apparition grew a serious look.

           "You're right," it said, it's form fading and taking the shape of Enishi as a child "I came here for a reason." Enishi gave the boy an 'oh it's you' look. "I want to make sure you know not to trust Fang." Enishi looked at the boy like he was stupid.

           "Why do you think I'm always watching Kaoru?" he said.

           "There's something suspicious about that guy following her. I don't think he'd part of the pit's unfortunates." Enishi looked at him panicked. "Don't worry just yet. I think he'd harmless for now." Enishi settled down "You may need to get her out ahead of schedule, without Fang knowing though. He's planning to take her away somehow." Enishi nodded.

           "Yeah, I was thinking that myself"

           "Of course you were, you're me." The boy said grinning. "Now… are you sure you don't want me?" The boy turned back into Kaoru in a puff of smoke, posing ridiculously, covered in just a blanket that was falling off strategically.

           "Go away. You're nothing but a pervert." The Kaoru image smiled and started disappearing.

           "I know…" it said, laughing as it went "I'm you aren't I?" Enishi growled threateningly, finding himself opening his eyes, finally awake. He cursed whatever it was that he ate the night before.

           Saitoh sat on the deck of the ship and smoked. He had invited the Oniwabanshuu's Aoshi, but the man had flatly refused. Saitoh chuckled, he hadn't really wanted anyone coming along with him anyhow, and he didn't know why he had bothered. It had been a while since he left Japan; it should only be a few more days till he reached China. There were Wolves in China too, he would find Enishi. His prime concern was Kenshin though; luckily Chou had supplied him with the location of the pitiful rurouni.

           Saitoh hoped to face the Hitokiri once more. He hadn't had a challenging fight since the last time, and he thirsted for hard earned blood. It had been a while since he left Japan as well, he'd only done it once before, at the end of the war.

           "So, head-honcho, why were we going to china again?" Chou said interrupting his train of thought. He peered over at Chou through his feral amber eyes. Why had he brought the fool anyway… oh yes, as a distraction for Sanosuke if the man got in the way? Sanosuke intrigued Saitoh, and the wolf didn't want him killed just yet, it was far more amusing to watch him stumble aimlessly through life, as the rooster-head seemed to do.

           "We're there to weed out the weak and useless" Saitoh said. Chou looked at him oddly, Saitoh always said things so seriously, yet there was always a very slight hint of cynicism and mockery hidden behind.

           But by far the scariest face he'd ever seen on Saitoh was when the man was smiling, his eyes closed so much they tilted up happily with the rest of his face. And the voice that went along with it! Chou shivered as he made his way back to the sleeping quarters of the deck.

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Disclaimer: Site created by the ExK no Tenshi-tachi. Enishi, Kaoru & other Rurouni Kenshin characters belong to Watsuki Nobuhiro-sensei, Sony, and Shonen Jump. The rest are products of the webdominatrices' imagination. Please don't sue us. We're very poor.