Well, when I updated this in '06, I had no idea it'd be near 4 years later before I managed to pick this story up again. That's a long time in-between updates. There are a lot of reasons for this, but if you are interested I posted a message on chapter one.

If you haven't checked my LJ in the past few weeks or attempted to re-read the story, please note that I have re-written and edited a great majority of the story. If you want the original story and not the new (and I hope) improved version, you can find it on .Moon.

I hope you enjoy the new chapter.


Kaoru studied the meal in front of her before lifting her gaze to watch her mate through her lashes as he perused a curiously bound book. She had woken alone this morning, warmly tucked in the blankets and pleasantly relaxed; in a room that had been carefully shielded. She had just managed to untangle herself and relocate her sleeping robe when Kenshin returned. To her surprise, he had been carrying a tray with a carefully arranged breakfast that he sat next to her.


Before she could argue – she wasn't exactly hungry – he had leaned forward, close enough that his hair had brushed along her cheek, silencing her complaint. She had gone still, eyes widening at his closeness and the memories from the night before. Reaching forward, he wrapped her hair around his fingers. Dark yellow eyes scanned her features before he tugged lightly.

"Afterwards, we have a meeting."

Kaoru swallowed, but before she managed catch her bearings he had stood and settled against the chest, removing the book from his gi. She could have argued with him about the food but there had been an unexpected moodiness to his posture she hadn't really noticed before, a resigned patience that clung to him under the irritation. She lowered her gaze and stared at the steaming bowl of miso. She could feel him if she even gave the slightest thought to it, because when they were like this, he made no effort to dampen her gift. He did contain her gift to the room, but it seemed more interested in him than the barrier.

Deciding she would deal with it later, she picked at her breakfast.

It was the first time she had eaten actual food since she had left Tokyo. Considering, she ate several bites of the salt-cured salmon. Kenshin had been very specific in forcing her to learn to tolerate blood, but now he was offering her meals? Except… she felt fine. She didn't even have the usual twinge that spoke of the fact that might need to feed sometime soon. She knew that Kenshin could sustain himself off kills, that he didn't always need blood so… Kaoru suddenly had to fight down a full body flush. Her gaze swung to Kenshin who hadn't seemed to notice her sudden discomfort and she scooped up another bite of rice to distract herself.

Is that what he meant when he started talking about empaths and sex last night? That she could… Kaoru swallowed. She would think about that later. Clearing her throat, she curled her fingers a little tighter around her chopsticks. "Is Misao awake?"

The soft crinkle of paper filled the silence for a moment. "She's alive."

Kaoru frowned at him. He must have felt her glare but he ignored it. Huffing, she turned back to her meal. Eyes narrowed, she glanced over at him in-between bites before pausing, absently tapping her chopsticks against her bottom lip. He was being quiet this morning. Nice. Well, almost nice. Her brows tucked together. Nice for him. He had actually brought her breakfast instead of waking her and making her locate her own meal.

Actually, his behavior these past few weeks had been… well, erratic. He had… allowed her the contact she needed after her mating cycle. He hadn't pulled away from her but he hadn't gone out of his way to hold her… except for that one time, when he had carried her after the shadow attack. But… last night. Feeling her cheeks heat, she glanced over to make sure he was still absorbed in his book. Relieved that he appeared to be ignoring her, she pressed the end of her chopsticks against her lip and sighed. Battousai who had first changed her – who had pushed her and terrified her – had melded into Kenshin, who had started to treat her with that stifled sort of affection.

A sudden flicker of heat gave her pause and she glanced over at Kenshin to find him staring at the chopsticks pressing against her lip. Flushing again, she put them down and curled her fingers around her bowl of miso, stubbornly ignoring the glint in his eye, even as she felt his amusement. But instead of bothering her, he turned back to his book. Kaoru stared at him, bemused. Why was he giving her space?

Swiftly, Kaoru finished the soup and placed it on the tray. Lacing her fingers together, she decided that she had been letting herself be nervous about him long enough this morning. "What meeting?"

Kenshin glanced over at her tray and frowned at her. Kaoru didn't budge. He glanced down, clearly marking his page before he turned his attention back to her. There was more than just a hint of disapproval in his eyes, but he answered her question. "I told you that Shishou was interested in meeting you."

Kaoru gripped the blanket next to her. "You said a lot of things last night."

His eyes flared and her mouth ran dry at the sudden shift of his expression. There was something calculating about his gaze and she swallowed. Her gift brushed against him and her fingers went white around the blanket at the sudden surge. Before he could make do on the promise in his expression – in way his emotions were making her stomach flip – he turned his head in the direction of the restaurant and frowned.

"It looks like we've been summoned. Get dressed."

Startled, because she hadn't heard or felt anything, she jumped as that growing intent suddenly disappeared under a nettling irritation. The sudden tightness of his jaw and narrowed-eyed glance had her pushing to her feet. Because he wasn't watching, she grabbed the hakema and gi Misao had supplied and ducked behind the screen that offered her a semblance of privacy. She wondered what sort of connection Kenshin had to his Shishou. And if it had something to do with their gifts. Partway through her change of clothing, she paused as something occurred to her. Hesitantly, she peaked around the corner of the screen to find Kenshin moodily tapping his fingers against the spine of the book he had been reading.

It was the first real sign of impatience she had seen from him.

"Misao said that the ninja clan bred for certain gifts."

Narrowed eyes studied her. "Why the sudden interest, Kaoru?"

She curled her hands into fists, ducking back behind the screen. "I was just wondering if all gifts were a family trait."

She finished tying her hakema and turned, stumbling a little when Kenshin was right there. He didn't catch her, but followed her until she was pressed into the wall. As he seemed to have a habit of doing now, he curled his fingers in loose strands of hair.

"Why the sudden interest," he repeated, lashes lowering the hide the glitter she could feel.

Kaoru swallowed, uneasy at the sudden intensity of his interest. "I… I told you that I thought the other woman was an empath. It's been bothering me. I've been trying to understand why."

Kenshin arched a brow, tugging on her hair. His tone was edged when he spoke. "You were nearly ripped apart."

Kaoru couldn't stop the reflexive flinch at the memory. She reached out and curled her fingers into his gi, suddenly wanting contact. When he didn't move to shake her off, she lowered her gaze, thinking. "She felt… not familiar, but there was something recognizable about her – as if she should have been familiar."

Another of those faint tugs. "What else. You said they mentioned their Master."

He hadn't moved, but he suddenly felt closer. Kaoru bit her bottom lip, trying to concentrate. Eyes shut, she shook her head. "I don't know. There is something else I just can't seem to remember."

He leaned forward, physically pressing against the length of her for a moment. "Walk me through it."

She glanced up. His gaze held hers. Instead of the impatience she had expected, his expression was almost stern – layered with consideration. She tightened her grip on his gi. "What?"

"When did you know you were being followed?"

Again, no impatience just a firm question and an unwavering gaze that was holding her in place.

"Misao wanted to start trying to use a shield on my own. Something felt… wrong." Her eyes unfocused as she tried to work past the trauma of her gift turning against her to remember. "Misao agreed with me – said that if it felt wrong we could head back, but they attacked her. She just… fell over."

His nose brushed her temple. She was starting to expect the way her muscles relaxed when he did something like that. Her usual wariness didn't manifest itself and she swallowed. "Go on."

"That woman, she looked… tortured." Kaoru shook her head, fighting the urge to curl into him. How to describe what looking at someone so… physically destroyed while feeling an echo of that same terrible pain radiating off her? The memory made her teeth hurt and it was a physical pain that started to pound in her head. Shivering, she gasped when her gift flashed off her, pushing against Kenshin the same way it had when she was trying to handle the death of the girl in the alley. He went tense in front of her, and she glanced up to see his eyes bleed to pale gold, an edge of violence behind the calculation.

"Her. Not me." She whispered, finding her voice. Some of fury melted away but his body pressed her tightly into the wall. The immediate area darkened at the force of his temper and she swallowed, watching his face.

The rage was there, but he wasn't hurting her with it.

"She said…" Kaoru swallowed, shaking her head. "He said it. He said… that I had been hidden form the Master for so long… he was happy. Then he told her to bind me and I..."

Those hard, yellow eyes never left her face.

"I think somehow… she wanted me to replace her." Kaoru sifted through the feelings of that moment – emotional hurt that had been muted somehow – to the niggling urge that told her she should have known that woman. That somehow she did. "They were surprised I managed to hide for as long as I had… so how did they find me?"

She watched the frown on his face and swallowed. The next few words were whispered. "So that's why I was wondering if gifts were passed through families."

Kenshin seemed to consider those words, the edges of his mouth turned down. But then he stepped back, impatience flickering through his ki. She blinked as she watched him visibly control himself and before motioning her to follow him.

"We will finish this discussion in a moment."

Baffled, she padded after him. He kept them away from the hallways that were the direct connection to the restaurant, instead taking them outside before she entered an area she hadn't seen before. It was clearly an office but her perusal was interrupted by the entrance of a man even larger than Sano.

Hiko Seijirou was not what she expected. Kenshin was built along such slim lines for the power that he wielded, but this man carried a sense of force. She flinched a little when Kenshin suddenly dropped the shields he had raised as they left the room and the punch of whatever Hiko was washed through her gift. Whatever his gift was, it was not the cool slide of death that Kenshin carried.

"I am pleasantly surprised to see that the idiot hasn't managed to kill you yet."

Kaoru barely managed to keep from gaping at him. The burst of irritation from Kenshin was almost as startling as the impatient amusement from Hiko. Finally managing to push her bemusement back, she glanced over at Kenshin from beneath her lashes. He had sealed the room and his jaw was a tight line of irritation.

Finally realizing that Hiko was waiting on a response she laced her fingers together. "Thank you."

Nodding, he sat down and stared at her for a moment before turning that dark eyed stare onto Kenshin who seemed to be… almost resigned. She frowned a little, studying the emotional byplay between them and wondered why Kenshin had let her shields go so that her gift could roam. Granted, Hiko seemed to be amused by the situation, but why was he letting her have that ability during this meeting?

"I see you actually paid attention at our previous discussion. She seems healthy enough, although I imagine it's just a matter of time before you screw that up as well."

Kaoru blinked when Hiko reached behind him and returned with a sake jar in hand. Kaoru looked over at Kenshin who had his arms crossed and a flat, irritated expression on his face. Biting down on her lip, she suddenly found the situation amusing.

"Kaoru believes that she might be related to the empath she killed."

The statement killed any amusement she might have felt as seeing Kenshin as close to fidgeting as she ever would. The surge of attention made her uncomfortable. She glanced over at Hiko who was swallowing a long pull of sake. He pinned her with the force of his stare.

"Do you?"

Kaoru frowned. His question wasn't exactly mocking but it put her back up. "I… I am not certain. But there was an odd familiarity to the woman in the alley. The man with her spoke of a Master and that I had managed to hide from him. I wasn't certain how the gifts worked, so I asked if they were familial." She refused to fidget.

Hiko sighed. "I don't nearly have the sake required for this."

Kenshin muttered something too low to catch and straightened. "It might explain how they located her."

"Your stupidity also accounts for how they located her – if she was related to them, then her half-blood status helped hide her, which you ruined. Assuming your reports are coherent, then that mess with Jineh could have clued someone in that her gift had awakened. I don't even want to mention the Yukishiro problem – two chances to be stupid and you managed it both times."

Kaoru knew she was gaping. Kenshin's eyes had narrowed into slits and she felt the boil of his temper but he leashed it. This was a new side to Kenshin she hadn't expected to see. Hiko seemed oblivious or uncaring about the rising tension.

Hiko sighed. "I'll spell it out for you, since it appears that your mate is the only hope for any reasonable thought process. As long as you shield her, they will not be able to find her. Do not let them find her. By now they know who you are if they didn't before – they'll be hunting."

Kaoru swallowed. Her knuckles went white with tension and she determinedly held herself together. The echo of that memory, the absolute agony both emotional and physical, terrified her. She felt Kenshin stare at her but she kept her gaze away from him. They wanted to hide her. Rather, Hiko wanted to hide her. She didn't know what Kenshin wanted. But the idea of being put somewhere safe like a child rankled.

There was a soft knock on the door and the shields wavered. Shinomori walked in and carefully bowed. Kaoru blinked. The movement was similar to what Soujiro had done, but not as low. Frowning, she realized she still didn't know what had happened after Yukishiro had kidnapped her.

"Misao is awake."

Kaoru glanced over at Kenshin, who was still watching her with that moody expression. Finally he sighed, tilting his head in silent agreement. Surprised and pleased, she sent her thanks quietly along the bond. She watched as he stilled, eyes narrowing a little at the edges but he didn't stop her as she slipped out of the room.

A small, dark haired woman only a few inches taller than Misao was waiting on her. "I'm Okon.

I'll take you to Misao."


Kenshin frowned to himself, considering that little burst of pleased happiness that Kaoru had given him. His gift had absorbed it, pulling it deep and the edge that always rode him – the need to kill – had eased again. It was one thing for her to share during sex, for her gift to sink into his skin and press tightly against him as he touched her; for him to absorb each bright flare of power and store it deep in his own gift. It was another for her to willing share during the day. The information they had managed to dig out of their library had been little to none about her gift.

The basics were still there: she required touch, she needed to feel him and she needed him to help feed the demands of her gift. She would thrive on emotion and in return, that emotion would become a weapon. Especially now that she had broken the barrier that was supposed to keep her from killing; his instincts were pleased by her ability to protect herself.

And yet…

"If you are done day dreaming, perhaps we can begin this conversation. I am nearly out of sake."

Shinomori stepped in. "Soujiro has little to report regarding Yukishiro. He is working through the more populated portions of the city, but it appears that wherever he has disappeared to he is well hidden."

"It is impossible that someone else found him first." Kenshin reminded them.

Hiko studied him. "If so, then it is entirely possible that our old enemy has been keeping a closer watch on you than we had anticipated."

Kenshin arched a brow. "Difficult, as before Kaoru I hardly stayed in one place more than a few days."

"I sincerely doubt you managed to keep as low a profile as you thought." Hiko returned. He glanced over at Shinomori. "It was your mate who knew who Yukishiro was, correct?"


"So what did she find that you two didn't manage?"

Aoshi paused. "I'll discuss it with her."

"See that you do." Hiko glanced down at the jar in hand and sighed before finishing it. "Kaoru's thought that she might be related to the empath is a good one. I examined what remained of the woman and I am uncomfortable with the conclusions that must be drawn. This 'master' has long been a thorn in our side – an un-findable one. If he has indeed managed to exploit a family line of empaths then keeping Kaoru out of this will not be an option. The empath she killed was drained and tortured – it is nearly impossible to steal such a gift, but he may be trying."

Kenshin frowned. "Kaoru had the impression that the dead empath wanted her to replace her."

"If Yukishiro is indeed working for our enemy, then he will likely make a play for her in the next few days. Try not to let your usually idiocy screw up your chance to remove him. When this is over, I fully expect both Yukishiro and this 'master' to be dealt with."

"Of course, Shishou."

Hiko grunted and dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "Go away. I need some peace and quiet to consider exactly what needs to be done to minimize your stupidity. Since I am low on sake, your presence is guaranteed to give me a headache."


"You look good."

Misao hunched a little, her braid brushing her cheek. She had her color back and the feel of her without actively looking was whole. There was a spark that had been missing and Kaoru was relieved to see that she hadn't managed to kill her.

"That's because he bound us. He hit me when I couldn't fight and he tied us together." Her mouth twisted. "We're mated."

Kaoru blinked at the way the world tilted – it hadn't become second nature yet, and it took a moment for her to understand what her gift was showing her. The usual darkness of Misao's gift was tightly intertwined with what she assumed was Aoshi's. Kaoru frowned at it, taking in the way both gifts seemed to be attempting to meld into each other. She wondered if that was her and Kenshin's bond looked like.

More importantly, those areas in Misao's ki that Kaoru hadn't done more than tie loosely together were being held together by those stubborn, foreign bits of gift. The weakness in her personal shielding was also being held firmly together. It explained why Misao seemed to be healing so quickly – Shinomori seemed to be holding together the healing by force of will.

She wondered if Kenshin had done something similar. Misao curled her fingers into fists, eyes sparking and Kaoru reached out and caught the edge of Misao's yukata. Her gift roamed her, looking for any weaknesses that Shinomori might have missed and Kaoru was relieved to find none.

"You almost died," Kaoru swallowed back her emotions. "Whoever that was, they shredded your ability to keep your ki and gift separated. It was…"

How to explain to a friend that you had to rearrange her life force so she didn't destroy herself? How did you explain concepts of gifts and ki that somehow translated themselves into silk and steel inside her mind? That she could have died because she just didn't know what she was doing most of the time?

"Aoshi said you put me back together."

Kaoru nodded, fingers curled tightly together. "Yes. But not soon enough. I wasn't sure what I did would work."

Misao pressed her lips together and sighed. "Thank you."

Kaoru shook her head and hesitated before speaking. "I wouldn't have been able to manage it without Shinomori. From what I can see he's holding together the… work I did, keeping it in place. I don't know enough to explain why this is important, but it is."

Misao's expression tightened. The flare of rage took Kaoru off guard and she flinched. To Kaoru's absolute shock, her gift was suddenly locked down by Kenshin – blocking her ability to feel or see Misao through her gift. Blinking rapidly, she caught the sudden surprise on Misao's face.

"Was that… Himura?" She asked finally, her brows tucking together.

"Yes," Kaoru said. "He's been… I don't know. The attack…"

Misao closed her eyes for a moment and then shook herself. "I apologize. I should know better than to let my emotions run like that when you are unshielded." She took a deep breath. "Can you tell me what happened? I don't remember much."

Kaoru licked her lips before quietly going back over the events. Misao looked disturbed at how easily they had taken her down and her expression went tight when Kaoru explained what she had done. How she had killed the other empath and the consequences.

"It appears that I owe you more than one debt."

Kaoru frowned. "I don't understand."

"I'll explain some other time," Misao diverted, slender hands waving. "So you think that you might somehow be related to this other empath. And Hiko and Himura agree."

"They didn't… disagree." Kaoru said slowly. "I'm not sure what to think about how they feel on it. I'm more confused by Kenshin. He's been… different."

Misao hesitated before sighing gustily. "It would appear that in order to put your gift back in place, he had to examine both of you. I don't know what it means, but I imagine it changed whatever was between you. You said Aoshi was holding me together."

Kaoru nodded. "Yes."

Misao curled one hand into a white-knuckled fist and pressed it to her chest. "I can feel Aoshi, here. And I'm very, very good at blocking people – I can't dislodge him. I've tried. I'm so angry with him for doing this to me after everything else that I can barely contain it yet, he's there. Anchoring me, holding me together so I don't shatter and I can feel him. Aoshi's gift is… subtle in comparison to either you or Himura's. I imagine that something very similar occurred between you and Himura – I would put money down that he had to let you in just as tightly. Empaths are… different, in that your gift directly relates to gifts and emotions. You need emotions. If you are here in his chest, the way Shinomori is in mine, it just might be that you're softening him from the inside out."

Kaoru bit her lip at Misao's firm voice. She honestly believed that Kenshin was changing because of her. She wondered what had happened between Misao and Shinomori. Misao had claimed they were mates now, so she supposed that grumbling she had overhead a few times in the dojo meant that they had recognized each other in the past but had done nothing about it. Misao's expression was tight around the lips so Kaoru changed the subject.

"Can you tell me what happened with Yukishiro?"

Misao blinked at the sudden change in topic. "Yukishiro?"

"Yes. I don't know what happened after he took me. But Kenshin was very angry with Soujiro the last time we saw him."

Misao tilted her head. "He attacked Kenshin, when Yukishiro appeared. Kenshin almost killed him. I interfered, because I realized what we were dealing with." At Kaoru's confused glance she shrugged. "I didn't spend the years on the road doing nothing. I'd heard rumors of Yukishiro but hadn't had anything confirmed until he stole you."

Kaoru sighed. This whole thing was confusing. She agreed with Misao that it was likely that her gift was having an impact on Kenshin. It would explain the way he seemed to be irritated at himself and the anger she could feel that he wasn't always directing at her. But… even her first morning in Kyoto, she had sensed a shift. He had still bullied her into what he wanted but there had been a… lack of threat, or at least the kind of threat that had left him pinning her to the dojo.

Now was not the time to think about this.

Not when she could see the hurt behind Misao's eyes. Something inside Kaoru just wouldn't let her drop the subject, even it really wasn't any of her business. Misao was her friend and it was almost her own physical pain to see how deep Misao's hurt went.

"Misao…" she paused and considered exactly how to word this. "I know that you… whatever happened between you and Shinomori was bad. I can feel it. But Kenshin and I, we didn't start out well either. You are right when you say he is changing but I think only part of it is because of his contact with my gift. I can't explain it."

Explain that gut-deep knowing that this had started before she was so badly hurt. That it wasn't so much a changing as an acceptance. She just didn't know what he had accepted.

"Maybe you should talk to Shinomori."

Misao tensed, eyes darkening. Kaoru held up her hand. "I'm not saying what he did was right – whatever that was. But I felt the depth of how much it hurt. I felt it, Misao. I'm not saying you have to let it go and forgive him, but I think you need to know. Because you're stuck with him the way I'm stuck with Kenshin and that can hurt too. I know."

Misao finally loosened enough to nod. "Alright. I can do that." Misao grimaced. "I suppose I owe you an apology too."

Kaoru blinked. "Why?"

"I figured it was just a matter of time before you and Himura worked this out. He's… different with you, has been since the moment I appeared. I suppose I didn't realize how much it can hurt to have this forced on you. So for that, I am sorry."

Kaoru reached over and squeezed her hand. "I forgive you."


Yahiko stared up at the open skyline and sighed. The roof was a good enough place to hide from the crazy omitsu downstairs. Trying to get him to wait on tables, as if he didn't do enough of that in Tokyo – he liked Kaoru enough to help out. Didn't really see much of a reason to help out here, not when they blocked him from doing anything interesting or finding out what was going on with Kaoru. No one was talking about the last two days and what it had meant when Battousai had gone all dark on them, sealing both of them behind wards that dug in and bleed if you were too close.

He'd heard she was okay now, but the relief inside had been tangible. Even the damn healer had walked around on eggshells, face pale. Eyes narrowing, Yahiko pondered that. Something was up with her and he was almost bored enough to care.

"I thought I might find you up here sulking."

Yahiko turned and scowled at Sano. "I'm not sulking."

"Sure you're not."

Feeling annoyed, Yahiko stuck his tongue out. "Whatever."

Sano snorted and sat down, mouth moving along the fishbone he had picked up from somewhere. "Jou-chan is up and moving."

Yahiko eyed him from the corner of his eyes. "Yeah, I know. How do you know? And where the hell have you been the last few days? I can't turn around without running into one of those damn ninja, but you I can't seem to find."

Sano ignored him. "Battousai seems to be keeping her under wraps again – stupid bastard. Still, heard that there was a bit of a tussle in the kitchen this morning when he showed up and got her breakfast."

Yahiko stared at him, irritation derailed. "Battousai got her breakfast? Like, human food?"

"Seems to be the rumor," Sano agreed. Megumi had looked particular pinched this morning when one of the men who loitered around Misao's room had commented on Battousai's behavior, but that might have been due to their conversation. He wished he knew what was going on inside her head. She'd been either avoiding him or sticking close to other people.

"That's… weird, really weird." Yahiko muttered, "I didn't think Battousai cared enough about anyone to help out like that. Especially with everything we've been hearing about how Misao is training her. They actually had to go and bleed some customer out the other day to feed her. Why is he giving her an actual meal now?"

Sano shrugged. Actually feeding someone a human meal or a meal from a cup did the same for a vampire – what they really needed was blood and ki. Ki was best absorbed from feeding straight from the source. What he found interesting was that something had changed enough between them that Battousai seemed to be willing to let her eat human food in-between feedings to extend the time Kaoru needed in-between. And for someone who had been human for seventeen years, eating would be more of a comfort than anything else.

Strange from a vampire who seemed so determined to cut any reminder of her human life before he changed her. But if anyone stood a chance of wiggling into a soft spot, it was Jou-chan. He didn't think Battousai rounded up breakfast – human food – for anyone.

"It's Kaoru; we already know she finds a way to get to you." Sano shrugged. "She's probably doing the same thing to him she did to us."

Yahiko leaned back, cradling his head on his, mouth pinched. "You think he'll let us see her?"

Sano reached over and knuckled his hair. "No harm in trying."

"Stop that!"

"So now that's out of the way, what's really bothering you?"

Yahiko hunched his shoulders and scowled, averting his gaze. "Nothing."

Sano frowned at him. Usually Yahiko at least attempted to put some credence in his lies. This was just out right being stubborn. "Kid, your gift is foresight. At your age, sometimes that means all your going to get is a feeling. Something is clearly riding you. So what the hell is it?"

"Don't call me kid! And I know that, okay? I know. I don't even know if it's a feeling. It's just…" he frowned. Brown eyes narrowed with frustration and sat back up, fists clenching on top of his thighs. "This whole business with Kaoru being attacked for a third time? It just makes me itchy and I don't know why."

Sano paused and considered. Yahiko had always had an interesting connection with Kaoru. As far as he'd been able to tell, whatever sense she had knocked into his head with her bokken had seemed to endear her to him. Shit. No wonder the kid was tied up in knots about not being able to see her.

He sighed. This whole reassuring thing was woman's work.

"You'll know when she's in trouble."

Yahiko fisted his hands, eyes darkening. "I got lucky with Gohei. I don't know why I knew then, but now? It's just a buzz. I can't pinpoint anything! Not Yukishiro and not whatever happened three days ago!"

Which was a problem. Sano had been around Yahiko long enough to know that the kid always had a startling ability to catch slivers of the future – even when it meant nothing important. Foresight was a tricky gift – almost as much as the empathy Kaoru was carrying around. Being in a city this densely populated with vampires and full of possibilities wasn't helping him with clarity either.

And it was way, way out of Sano's league.

"Have you talked to someone about it? Shinomori might have some answers."

Yahiko grimaced. "I'd talk to Misao but they're keeping her visitors to a minimal too. I snuck into the scroll room – can't find anything."

Sano frowned at him. Sneaking into the Oniwabanshu room of records probably hadn't been the smartest idea. Interesting that Yahiko seemed so assured that no one had caught him. Seemed like this was going to fall on his shoulders to handle for the time being. He reached up and rubbed the back of his neck. At least it was something to do other than worry about that damn healer.

"Well, I'll see what I can dig up myself. We'll figure it out."

Yahiko swallowed. "Yeah. I guess so."

Sano stood. "Well, you coming?"

"Going where?"

"To find out what the hell is going on with Kaoru. The way I figure it, he can't keep her locked up forever."

Yahiko paused, eyes going a little unfocused before he frowned and shook himself. "Yeah, I'm right behind you."


Enishi studied the layout of the Aoiya and grimaced. Getting inside was going to be nearly impossible – at least if he didn't want to be detected. The little omitsu group was better prepared to handle an attack than Kamiya's dojo had been. It was abundantly clear that someone was gifted in shielding and that they had set up a series of overlapping triggers. While Shinomori's gift was difficult to place, it wasn't hard to miss this blatant little pocket of power.

He tilted his head, considering. A distraction was possible. Distractions were always possible. The problem was that even with his limited ability to sense the gift that Kamiya carried – their gifts were in the same family – he had been unable to find the slightest hint of her existence. It meant that Himura had finally realized that she was being tracked and had buried her under shielding.

If he was that aware of her now then it was possible they were too closely connected to separate easily. Enishi sighed. This entire operation was turning sloppy. There was a lack of elegance in the way his Master had chosen to go about handling his lost little empath. Even if they did manage to separate Kamiya – if she had in fact been the one to kill the old hag, then there was no telling what she could do to defend herself. He had seen what those caged empaths did if they were let lose – he had no desire to share the same fate.

Even if the purpose was to drain her gift dry – to use her connection to Battousai against him and finally break the hold Hiko had on the vampires, they had not yet found a way to contain Battousai. Forcefully breaking their mating bond – if it was at all possible – would be disastrous.

And yet that was exactly what his Master wished to do.

Enishi pushed his hands into his pockets and moved away from the Aoiya. It was time to do some serious consideration. Eventually he would have Battousai's head. His sister demanded it. But until then…

"Heishin, it is time we spoke."

Please Comment.