The moon was new, nothing but a silver sliver hanging
in the deep black sky speckled with stars. A light breeze shook the trees, making
eerie sounds as it whistled around the dojo. Karen crouched from her spot and
listened. But her thoughts wandered.
These bastards are moving awfully fast ... I didn't think they'd come out like this. There's something we don't know here, but what is it? And where is that damn wolf when you need him? She bit her lip. Just wait till this is all over ...
Then she heard it. The sound of many people ... maybe around 40? ... gathering around the dojo. She tensed as she heard the sound of some kind of liquid being poured. That'd be gasoline.
"Make sure no one gets out alive," someone muttered.
Karen softly leapt on tops of the wall surrounding the dojo and watched the men scatter. The sound of a match being lit reached her ears. Her hand crept to her sword.
"The fun begins," the voice cackled as it threw the match on the ground. It fizzled.
"...?!" Karen smiled grimly at their cursing.
"What ... what the hell is going on?"
Karen whipped out a match and struck it on her blade. Then she lit the torch they had set at each corner of the dojo. Almost at the same time three other torches sprang to life, blinding the men that had surrounded the dojo. The fire traveled down gasoline-soaked threads and lit the other torches they were connected with. The dojo was as bright as day.
"Up here, you morons!" Sanosuke's voice could be heard by everyone. "Surprise, surprise!"
"Wha ... what the hell?!"
All was confusion as the men bumped into each other,
trying to escape the light. Yahiko, who was guarding the inside of the dojo
along with Tsubame, grinned.
"That was a pretty good idea, digging a trench and soaking the earth with water. Those bad guys must've been pretty surprised." His face slightly darkened. "Now it's up to Karen-san ..."
"Hello, everyone." Karen leapt down from her perch and calmly surveyed the group. "Nice night we're having, isn't it?"
"The rurouni!" one of them gasped.
"Rurouni? Not exactly," Karen shook her head. "I'm a secret messenger from the government. They sent me to make a deal with you guys. Care to listen?" Her voice sounded as if she didn't care whether they did or not.
"Silence." One of the men who seemed to be the ringleader stepped forward. "What is it you want to say?"
"They know what you're after, and they want to help. Only they can't do it openly because of the people. If the land around here is used right, Japan can make quite a fortune, am I right? So can the foreigners. Profit for all involved. Too valuable to be used as an old falling-apart dojo. Don't you agree?"
Kaoru glared at her from her perch. "^^; I'll forgive you since you don't mean it, Karen-san," she muttered to herself.
I can practically feel Kaoru-san's glare. Karen swallowed a smile. "They've agreed to help you if you agree to keep your mouths shut."
"...How do you plan to help us?"
"These people trust me." Karen's mouth curled up in a sneer. "Nice people, but too innocent to live in the Meiji Era. I've convinced them to follow my plan. They think I'm going to lure you in and kill as many of you as I can. In the meantime they'll attack from the sides, and the police will appear and attack from the back. But see, I'm the one who was supposed to explain to the police what's happening. And I did. But not the way they expected." Karen laughed. Kaoru shivered from her position. The plan Karen was talking about was, in fact, their actual plan. If Karen really had done what she was telling the men she had done, and if she did what she was telling them she would do, they were done for.
"So the police aren't coming." The ringleader was suspicious.
"Of course not. Are they above the Meiji government?" Karen shrugged. "So how about it? I'll let you in, and you destroy the dojo."
What if... what if... Kaoru found herself paralyzed with doubt. Then she remembered the light in Karen's eyes that evening when they had fought with those men. She had said, I wouldn't work for the Meiji government if my life depended on it. Kaoru mentally shook herself. I said I would trust her, and I do.
Kenshin was listening carefully to Karen. Yes, we can trust her... but she knows too much to be a simple rurouni. What is she really?
"How can we trust you?" the man said suspiciously.
Karen looked bored. "Don't, then. It doesn't matter to me. I have nothing to lose."
The man frowned and conferred with his comrades for a minute. Then he nodded. "All right. Open the door."
Everyone in their spots was tense as Karen moved to open the doors. They made a creaking sound as they swung open. Karen calmly walked inside as the men followed her. Then she walked up to the leader.
"How does it feel?" she asked lightly.
"How does what feel?" the man barked.
"How does it feel to be fooled by a woman?"
Before anyone could react, Karen's blade gleamed in the moonlight as it sliced into the man. Blood spurted out and splashed on the ground as he fell.
"Shit!!!" the others quickly drew their weapons. "She tricked us!!!"
Karen smiled. "Never, ever trust anyone from the Meiji government." She lifted her katana. "Who's next?"
"Die!!" Several men jumped on her at once. At the same time Kenshin and Sanosuke attacked from either side. Kaoru gripped her shinai and stood guard in front of the room where Tsubame was. Yahiko had come out and was watching the three figures fight.
"Not bad!" Sanosuke shouted as a knife nearly ripped his clothes. He jumped up and connected his fist cleanly with the opponent's jaw. "But not good enough!"
"Hiten Mitsurugi ryuu!" Kenshin leapt up. "Ryuu Tsui Sen!!" He hit the enemy full force on the head as he landed. They fell, their faces frozen in fear. "Gua!!"
"Say your prayers!" Karen taunted as she took on a stance. "Hyat!!!!" She ran, did a flip, and attacked from below, her blade coming in contact with the enemy's jaw. "Ryuu Shou Sen!!"
"...!!" Kaoru and Yahiko both stared. "Ryuu Shou Sen... that's Kenshin's kenjitsu!!" Yahiko breathed. Kaoru nodded dumbly, her eyes wide. Karen-san...? Who are you?
In the meantime, Kenshin, Kaoru, and Sanosuke had paused as the remaining gang started to back off. Karen smiled wickedly. "I don't think so."
"Police!!" A swarm of officers were running toward the dojo. The men looked at each other and nodded.
"..!!!" Kenshin caught sight of one of them pulling out a small gray ball. "It's a bomb!!"
"Damn it!" Karen cursed. "Run away! Get down!" She swiftly jumped and tackled Kaoru and Yahiko.
In that moment, just as the man was about to set the bomb off, a figure attacked from behind. In a single movement the rest of the men fell. More blood stained the ground, mingling with the dust clouds that arose from the sudden attack.
"Who... what..." Sanosuke coughed, waving the dust away.
"Pitiful, pitiful." The attacker sheathed his sword and dug in his pocket. In a minute a cloud of smoke rose from his mouth. "I knew something like this would happen. Battousai, you've grown old."
"Goddamnit, you're early," Karen hissed
at him, breathing hard. Kaoru was struck dumb. Yahiko stared.
"Long time no see," Kenshin greeted the arrival rather flatly.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sanosuke snapped.
"Hey, I just saved your butts." Saitou Hajime blew a long line of smoke and watched it disappear. "Don't expect us to be grateful," Sanosuke growled.
"Perish the thought." Saitou took a drag.