“Kenshin!” a young woman with long black hair yelled furiously as she stalked through the outer halls of the dojo, looking into closets and rooms. “Where are you?! It’s dinnertime, so you can come out now!”
“Have you found him yet, Kaoru?” a young boy with dark hair called out from the courtyard, causing the young woman to roll her eyes in frustration.
“Yahiko, are you sure you saw him go into here?” she questioned, shaking her head as another turn into a room ended with failure.
“Yeah, I’m positive” he yelled back, a slight bit of annoyance in his voice at her disbelief. “He snuck in there after the twins began to count. If you don’t believe me then you can ask Sano” he spoke in a finalizing voice, stalking off to the main portion of the compound to eat his dinner.
Kaoru shook her head in disgust at the noisy retreat of her adopted sibling, returning to her search. She would have gladly asked the heavy swordsman where the samurai was but he had left with Megumi earlier in the evening, before Kenshin’s disappearance had been noted by his absence at the dinner table. Now here she was, stuck looking through the darkened dojo alone as the sun had set more than an hour before.
“Kenshin, I can’t believe you’ve been hiding for three hours” she grumbled under her breath, searching through a closet full of wooden training sticks.
Finding nothing within the outer rooms of the building, Kaoru turned her search toward the inner, and darker areas. With a string of curses upon the head of the samurai she moved deeper into the dojo, murmuring sweet revenge as she began to look through the various rooms and closets. However, as she continued to scour the night-blanketed rooms she became aware of a soft noise. Quickly looking behind her, only the dimly lit hallway met her eyes.
“Yahiko?” Kaoru called out, tilting her head to the side as she peered fruitlessly into the black corridor. “Kenshin, is that you?” she asked, her voice shivering in unease.
Hearing no answer, and with the sound apparently nonexistent, Kaoru returned to her work. However, her eyes now flitted among the shadowed corners of the halls in increasing suspicion while she looked cautiously around corners. When she had finally only a few areas remaining to check the noise began anew, though now the sound sounded closer than before.
“Okay, whose there?” she demanded, stomping her foot to the ground in her temper. “Sano? Yahiko? If this is your idea of a joke neither of you are getting supper for a week.”
Silence remained Kaoru’s only answer as she looked into the black abyss of the hall. Finally a simple yet wavering sigh escaped her mouth and she returned to her search undaunted. However, her nerves were soon shaken further as the noise returned, louder than before. With beads of perspiration running down her face she begin slamming open the doors of the rooms and closets, if only to distract herself from the noise. With each slam she realized, to her growing horror, that the sound was akin to someone breathing quietly, the voice raspy and deep.
“This isn’t funny anymore!” she yelled out, fearful of looking behind her as footsteps now rang out in the hall.
Suddenly something brushed against her hair, startling a cry of terror from her lips as Kaoru raced down the hall. Forgetting her mission she sprinted straight ahead, an echoing laugh of insanity following her pounding footsteps and heart. Turning down another corridor she realized only one room remained ahead, her mind praying endlessly that whomever was following her wouldn’t catch up before she slammed the doors behind herself.
Reaching the room and throwing open the final doors, Kaoru screamed as she suddenly fell over an object laying across the floor. For several seconds she thrashed wildly atop the object, her feet breaking the screens of the doors in her desperate struggle to free herself from the terrifying monster. Splintered wood flew about in all directions as a pair of hands suddenly wrapped around her waist.
“Oro...” a muffled voice spoke beneath her as Kaoru continued to scream, kicking at the moving mass beneath her.
Kaoru suddenly halted her movements at the familiar voice and word, turning her head slowly to look into the pained eyes of a certain samurai. With a rising blush she scrambled off of Kenshin, profusely expressing her apologies as she helped the somewhat injured man off the floor.
“Oh, Kenshin” she said with a quivering voice, shaking her head in amusement as her fear quickly fled. “Why couldn’t you have hid somewhere else when playing hide-and-seek?”
“Oro” Kenshin absently repeated as he rubbed his sore side where her foot had connected. However, he froze in mid message as he looked to Kaoru’s face. “Is something wrong, Kaoru-dono?” he asked, noticing her bright eyes and flushed face.
“It’s nothing, I just got scared, that’s all” she responded quickly, waving her hand in the air nonchalantly. However, her temper flared at the remembrance to her mission. “And what do you think you were doing playing hide-and-seek with the twins and falling asleep for so long?” she asked, her anger almost palpable. “It’s dinnertime and the food’s probably cold by now.”
With some confusion did Kenshin’s eyes look around them, the orbs growing wide in amazement at the dark shadows surrounding them. For a moment Kaoru thought she saw a hint of worry appear on his face but the lack of light allowed her little time nor ability to peer closer before he turned to her with an apologetic smile.
“I am sorry, Kaoru-dono, that I am” he spoke sincerely, standing to his feet and assisting Kaoru to her own. “I seemed to have fallen asleep with the fresh afternoon air. Did I worry you?”
“A....a little” she grudgingly admitted, brushing herself off as she tried to access the damage to the door. “Now I’ll have to fix that tomorrow” she muttered, shaking her head at her foolishness.
“Allow me, Kaoru-dono” Kenshin offered, giving a small bow of apology. “But for now, I believe we should be going to dinner.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right” Kaoru agreed, allowing the rurouni to lead her back the way she had come.
The two soon arrived at the main portion of the main portion of the house, neither having exchanged a word, and Kenshin slide open the doors to the eating area. To their surprise they found not only Yahiko but Megumi and Sanosuke eating at the table, pausing in mid conversation at the entrance of the others. Seeing the three sitting there with slightly guilty expressions on their faces, a suspicious idea entered Kaoru’s mind.
“Did you three try to scare me in the dojo when I was looking for Kenshin?” she questioned accusingly, looking between the three already seated around the low table.
The table’s occupants, however, looked to Kaoru in confusion, Yahiko speaking up first.
“What are you blabbing about now?” he asked, rolling his eyes in annoyance. “Megumi-san and Sano just got back, and look what they brought” he said, his voice raising in excitement.
Kaoru finally noticed a basket sitting at the far end of the table, food brimming from the top as several plates of delicious varieties were already laid out on the table. She narrowed her eyes, her anger once more returning but for a different reason.
“And what did you do with the food I cooked?” she asked angrily, now realizing the guilty looks were because of the food which was brought.
“Kaoru-dono, shouldn’t we jus-” Kenshin began, only to be cutoff.
“The food was unfit to eat” Megumi piped up, sipping some tea from the cup before her. “I thought it wise to throw the stuff out and share what Sanosuke was bought at the market.”
“Yeah, without my permission” the said swordsman muttered, though he flinched as the doctor gave him a sharp look.
“Fine, if you don’t like my cooking you can fend for yourselves” Kaoru stormed, though she sat herself at the table. “Though I do thank you for the food, Megumi-san and Sano” she politely said, giving them a low bow. “However” she added, looking around the table through narrowed eyes. “That doesn’t let any of you off for scaring me.”
“Kaoru, were you listening?” Yahiko spoke as he began piling his plate higher with the food. “Megumi-san and Sano have only been here for a few minutes, and I was getting rid of the, um, food you had cooked.”
“Well, someone was in the dojo with me besides Kenshin” she affirmed, though her words suddenly brought her great discomfort. After all, if Kenshin had been unconscious and the others hadn’t been anywhere near the dojo, who had been making the noises behind her?
Shivering at her own thoughts, Kaoru shook off her foolish fear as nothing more than that and dug into the food with the others.