Kenshin did not bother to look up at the owner of the voice; he had known that the policeman was approaching for some time now.

"Saitou," he replied coldly as he pegged up Yahiko's underwear. "What do you want now?"

"..." The Mibu Wolf placed his hand on the hilt of his sword and narrowed his eyes. "Stop assuming that I want something from you. I am no beggar."

Kenshin pushed a kimono aside and regarded Saitou calmly. "Why are you here then?"

"I told you..." snarled Saitou, his lips creasing into a thin frown. "Actually, I wanted to..." The policeman was doing his best to sound polite, but it really rankled, having to ask this of Battousai. "To..."

Kenshin continued to stare at Saitou, his violet eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"I need a favour of you, Battousai," Saitou finally managed to get out, the words nothing more than a mumble. Kenshin raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Favour?" he asked aloud, his tone slightly amused. "What kind of 'favour' would this be, Saitou?"

"Don't push it, Battousai," growled the Wolf. "I'm pissed off as it is. I need you to act as a replacement teacher for a few days."

"Oro?" Kenshin almost dropped the gi that he was holding. "Replacement... teacher, de gozaru yo?"

"You heard what I said," snapped Saitou impatiently. "I want you to teach a class of kids."

"Teach?" Kenshin was incredulous. "But sessha has never taught before; what makes you think that I can teach a class?! Why are you asking me?!"

"Because," Saitou gritted his teeth, "I know that... as stupid as you can be sometimes... you can handle this kind of thing."

"Couldn't you find anyone else to teach? Sessha is not qualified!"

"No." Saitou turned sharply and began to walk out of the gate. "Be at the school tomorrow morning before class."

"Wait!" yelled Kenshin, speaking to the policeman's back. "I haven't agreed to this! I cannot teach a class of students!"

"You know," replied Saitou conversationally as he halted, and turned. "I saw the Kamiya girl punching a poor innocent bystander in the face the other week, just in the market! I wouldn't want to see her charged with aggravated assault now, but a policeman has to do his job."

"But..." spluttered Kenshin, outraged. "That man was a thief! He was trying to steal our tofu!"

"That's not what my 'witnesses' say. They told me that..."

"All-right, I'll do your stupid teaching job for you," agreed Kenshin grudgingly. Saitou grinned to himself as he noticed the tiniest trace of amber cloud the rurouni's eyes.

"Too easy," he muttered to himself under his breath.

"I heard that," growled Kenshin to himself, as he began to attack Sano's soy-sauce stains.

The new day dawned bright and clear, and Kenshin found himself standing outside the school, after having convinced Kaoru that no, he wasn't going off to fight anyone, and yes, he would take care of himself (as if he ever didn't!). Kenshin shook his head ruefully and slowly climbed the stone steps which led to a wide hallway. The building was a new one; a gai-jin construction. Kenshin generally disliked these Western structures; as he moved silently down the polished hall, he began to feel trapped.

"Heeey!!!" Kenshin fought to keep himself from grasping the hilt of his sakabatou as a firm hand clapped him on the shoulder. The rurouni turned around slowly and came face-to-face with a bald man who, surprisingly, was shorter than him.

"Good morning!" greeted the fellow enthusiastically. "You must be the new substitute teacher! I am so glad to meet you!" The man offered his hand to Kenshin in a decidedly western gesture, and Kenshin shook hands reluctantly. "I am vice-principal Ueno. You are a very brave young man, you know Mr..."

"Himura," offered Kenshin tentatively. "Himura Kenshin." Suddenly Kenshin stopped and raised one eyebrow.

"Mr. Ueno," he asked, "why did you say... Why did you say that sessha is... brave?"

"Oh, my, you're also polite..." Ueno coughed uncomfortably and shook his head.

This one surely won't last long... I give him an hour... at most.

"Erm... it's nothing really actually.... just that you're um... the er... fifthsubstituteteacherwe'vehadthisweek."

"Fifth?" Kenshin was surprised. Was the job really that hard? Why had Saitou picked him for this? The policeman's words echoed inside Kenshin's head.

As stupid as you can be sometimes... you can handle this sort of thing.

"Saitou, you bastard," muttered Kenshin under his breath, "what have you gotten me into?"

"Well," said Ueno suddenly, as he stopped at a door. On the front of the door were nailed two western symbols. To Kenshin, they looked as if they were made from metal.

"This is room 7D," smiled Ueno, as he began to back away. "It is up to you to... discipline... this class. Good luck, Himura-san."

"Yes..." Kenshin blinked as Ueno opened the door and then quickly disappeared down the corridor, leaving the rurouni to walk into the classroom on his own. He sighed, stepped into the classroom, and was immediately hit in the head with something wet and slimy.

"Eww!" screamed someone; it sounded like a high-pitched girl's voice. "It hit him! It's got Eiji's spit on it, you know!"

"O... oro?" Kenshin looked up slowly and was greeted with an unnerving sight. Twenty-or so students; all of them leering and jeering at him, some making rude comments to his face.

"Saitou, you bastard," whispered Kenshin once again. One of the students, a tall boy who reminded Kenshin oddly of Sano, got up and began to walk towards the red-head.

"You're the substitute teacher?!" he laughed in disbelief. "We got rid of that monster Iwata, and he's replaced with a shrimp like... you?!" Suddenly, the youth stopped and his entire expression changed; became one of submission. Smiling, he held out his hand.

"Erm.. my name is Eikichi Onizuka, Mr... umm..."
"Himura," replied Kenshin softly.

"Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Himura-sama."

Kenshin moved to accept Eikichi's hand, but instead was hit in the face with something wet and slimy for the second time that day.

"Hahahahha!!" laughed Eikichi, as he turned towards the class. "He fell for it! He's even worse than the first woman who taught us!"

"Oro.." Kenshin managed to croak, as he wiped the spittle from his face. "That was not nice, Eikichi-dono."

"Hahahaha!!!" The tall student was still laughing. "I soo can't believe that he fell for it!"

Kenshin breathed deeply and clenched his fist in anger. So this was why Saitou had been so adamant. The bastard policeman had just wanted a joke at the rurouni's expense. Eyes narrowing, Kenshin forced thoughts of Karou into his head until he was once again calm. Slowly, ignoring Eikichi, he walked up to what appeared to be some kind of writing board. On the desk in front of it were some small white sticks of chalk. Kenshin picked one of these up and began to write his name on the board.

"My name is Himura Kenshin," he said calmly, not a trace of anger in his voice. "I will be teaching you for the next few days, de gozaru yo."

"Few days?!" Exclaimed Eikichi incredulously. "Days?!" He stared down at Kenshin. The rurouni estimated that the boy was at least a good foot taller than him.

"Himura, you don't know who you're dealing with here do you?! We are class 7-D, the baddest, meanest, toughest little thugs in the Tokyo-school district! Try lasting a few minutes against us, girly man!"

"Girly... oro?" Kenshin chose not to take offence at that; he knew that he often appeared slightly feminine to others. "Please sit down, Eikichi-dono. I want to start the lesson now."

"'Kay!" agreed the tall boy suddenly, much to Kenshin's surprise. He had been expecting Eikichi to refuse.

Kenshin walked slowly over to the teacher's desk and stared down at the sheaf of papers which lay on top of the table. One of them appeared to be some kind of lesson plan.

"Japanese history," read Kenshin, mostly to himself. "Unit 1.1, chapter 3A. The Bakumatsu." He looked up, expecting the attention of the class. No such luck. The twenty or-so students were laughing, talking, spitting, throwing things and generally not paying him any mind.

"Excuse me, class," said Kenshin mildly. "Please pay attention." Kenshin was normally quite softly spoken and not given to shouting. He did not know how to raise his voice so that it would pierce such a dense wall of sound.

"Class," he prompted once again. "Please pay attention to your lesson. I am going to teach you about the Bakumatsu."

"Class?" Kenshin sighed and glanced down at the lesson plan again. What could he do to make them pay attention?

Teacher's Tip 1: Find out what your class knows about the topic. Ask them questions to get them interested.

"Aa." Kenshin looked up. He decided to start with something simple. "Can anyone tell me what the Bakumatsu is?"

"Who cares?" hollered Eikichi. He was swinging back on the western-style chair, grinning. "Wasn't it just some dumb war in which a bunch of guys fought each other, and now we can't wear swords in the street because of it? I got a katana anyway, though. You should check it out, Himura."

Kenshin nodded sadly. "Is that what you really think, Eikichi-dono?" The tall student stopped swinging for a moment, and frowned. Eikichi normally started off by giving his teachers the worst possible impression of him. Usually, mentioning that he had a sword made the teachers blanch and step back a little; made him seem particularly bad-ass. This Himura guy hadn't even flinched; he'd just looked kinda sad and miserable.

Maybe we've already sent him nuts or sumthin, thought Eikichi in surprise. He sure talks funny for a teacher... I never heard any teacher call me 'dono' before. It's kinda weird.

"Aa." Kenshin tried to take a different tack; perhaps they were not ready for interpretation yet. Factual questions might be easier. "When did the Bakumatsu end?" he asked, peering around hopefully. Eikichi had turned around to stare at his reflection in the mirror and comb his hair while some of the other boys appeared to be gambling over what looked suspiciously like a bottle of sake.

"Class?" Kenshin knew that his efforts were futile, but what could he do? Beat the class into submission and hope for the best? Saitou would have Kaoru locked up before he could say "Ryu Tsui Sen."

"Umm excuse me, Himura-sama," said a clear, polite voice suddenly. Kenshin looked over to the left with a shock and saw a girl sitting at the desk closest to the front. "I believe that it was the year 1868."

"Very good, umm...."


"...Ryoko-dono." Kenshin smiled gratefully at the girl, and she returned the expression. "I'm surprised that you..."

Kenshin was suddenly interrupted by the loud clang of a bell.

"We're outta here!" yelled Eikichi, and Kenshin could only utter a tiny 'oro' as twenty-or-so students suddenly made a rush for the doorway, bowling over the rurouni in the process.

"Teaching is a surprisingly difficult thing, de gozaru yo," muttered Kenshin as the last of the students raced down the hall towards momentary freedom.

At the end of the break, Kenshin was sitting on the desk waiting for his class to return. By the time that the first of them started to amble back to their desks Kenshin had read through most of the papers on the polished wooden desk.

"Sessha would appreciate it if you don't return to class an hour late next time," chided the rurouni tamely. Eikichi smirked. "What? You didn't know? Class 7-D gets an extra hour for morning break each day. I can't believe that they didn't tell you."

Kenshin's eyes narrowed slightly. "Please, Eikichi-dono. Even sessha is not stupid enough to believe that. Do not be late to class tomorrow."

"Oooh!" hollered Eikichi, slapping his thigh. "Teacher wants to make some rules around here! What you gonna do, Himura? Beat me up with that..." Eikichi's gaze flicked down to Kenshin's side where the sakabatou hung. "Hey! How come you carry a sword?! That's illegal!"

"Sessha has permission," said Kenshin quietly before turning to the blackboard. "Now we will return to the lesson. How many of you..."

Kenshin stopped suddenly, detecting a familiar presence. From the hallway echoed the sound of muffled laughter.

"Excuse me for a moment, class." Padding silently on light feet, Kenshin made his way to the door and flung it open, startling the figure who stood outside.

"Oi! Kenshin god-damn it!" Sano frowned down at the red-head. "Don't do that!"

"Oro?" Kenshin suddenly sighed in exasperation. "Sano, what are you doing here?!"

"Me?!" Sano grinned sheepishly. "Well, I was just on my way into town and I decided to stop by and see how you were doing... with the class and all... I mean..."


"Okay, okay! Jou-chan sent me... but just to help you out, y'know! It's not like she's worried or beating up on anyone who enters the dojo or kicking my.... ehem!" Sano clamped his mouth shut as he noticed the look on Kenshin's face.

"Sano, I don't need your help. I'm only teaching the..."


Kenshin reeled back slightly as another spit-ball hit him in the head.

"Oi teacher dude!" yelled some kid from the back of the class. "When are you gonna get back to teaching us? Not that we were learning anything but it's not fair that you get to talk to your buddies while we're stuck in here! Ahahahahahaa!!"

"Don't need my help, eh?" Sano raised an eyebrow and stuck his foot in the door. "HEY!" he yelled to the class. "Cut it out, you lazy good for nothing bunch of freeloaders! Give Kenshin a little respect here!"


"You have to be the worst behaved bunch of dumb little shits that I've ever seen! Man! At least when I was your age I was doing something productive, like... um... er.. fighting and stuff!"


Eikichi jumped out of his seat. He had always had a good nose for a fight. "And who the hell do you think you are, rooster-head?! Anyone who's a friend of that girly man has gotta be some kind of...." Suddenly, Eikichi fell silent, as another boy ran up to him and whispered something into his ear... Eikichi's face turned a little pale.

"Oh, shit," he murmured, before plopping back down into his seat. "I'm sorry, Zanza-sama. I didn't mean any disrespect if ya know what I mean. I was just kinda... you know.... sorta.... thing...."

"Yeah, well so you should be." Sano stalked forward until he was staring down at the boy. "Now lemme just give you a little advice." All of the students craned forward, eager to hear what the legendary gangster Zanza had to say. "I know that you guys are feeling bored and restless, stuck in this place, but listen to me. You must never, ever, ever, EVER..." The entire class was silent. Sano continued. "Just don't," he said quietly, "piss Kenshin off."

"WHAT?!" exploded Eikichi, jumping out of his chair... "What the hell could that little dude do?! I thought you were Zanza, the biggest bad-ass in all of Tokyo! How dare you lead us on with some crap advice like that?! I thought you were gonna give us some of your secret fighting tips or something!!!"

"I'm warning you," said Sano quite seriously. "If you push him over the edge Kenshin will...."

"Oro!!!!!!" exclaimed Kenshin suddenly, as he quite loudly fell of his seat.

"Ahahaha!" laughed Eikichi as Kenshin's eyes swirled. "See what I mean?! The dude can't even sit on a chair without falling over. As the rest of the students laughed, Kenshin shot Sano a glare and shook his head slightly. Sano shrugged. "Okay," he mouthed. "It's your class." The tall fighter then suddenly grabbed Eikichi by the front of his gi. "Listen kid," he snarled, doing his best intimidation-face. "I warned you once, and I'm not warning you again. If you wanna behave badly, that's up to you. Just don't say that I didn't warn you."


"Yeah sure, whatever you say, Zanza," sneered Eikichi. "I hadn't realised that you'd become so soft in your old age."

"Oi!" growled Sano as he dropped the student into his seat with a resounding thud. "Call me soft again and I'll futae-no-kiwami your ass all the way to Kyoto, punk!"

Kenshin could sense that if he didn't intervene soon, things might get out of hand. "Sano," he warned, and underneath all of that rurouni-politeness, Sano could hear the steel in Kenshin's voice. "I think that we should begin the lesson now. I would appreciate it if you would leave. Please, Sano."

"Fine," shrugged the tall fighter as he glowered at Eikichi. "Just don't say that I didn't warn you, kid!" he growled and then walked out of the classroom.

"You said that already," muttered Eikichi, to Sano's back. As "Zanza" was about to leave, he glanced back at Kenshin.

"Oh yeah, Kenshin?"

"Oro?" Kenshin looked up from the papers that he had been studying.

"Jou-chan said that she wants you to pick up some rice from the market on your way back to the dojo. She said that you haven't done the laundry, either."

"Aa," replied the rurouni neutrally, almost as an afterthought. "Sessha will finish washing the clothes when sessha returns. Please tell Kaoru-dono not to worry."

"Yeah, Kenshin. Later!" With that, Sano sauntered down the hallway, leaving Kenshin to confront the class. Eikichi had a thoughtful look on his face.

So Himura's a lackey for this Kaoru-dono chick, eh? Wonder how the hell she beat him into doing her laundry and shopping!? Wouldn't be hard, I suppose, but still... he's a grown man! The tall student grinned evilly as a glimmer of a plan started to form in his mind. Kenshin meanwhile, was still staring at the notes, his brows drawn downwards into a slight frown.

"It says here," he muttered, half talking to himself, "that the Bakumatsu was a terrible war fought between the glorious, righteous, Ishin army who wanted justice and equality for all, and the terrible, evil, cruel Shinsengumi who, after killing their enemies, ate the raw fle..." Suddenly, Kenshin stopped, and shook his head fiercely. "This is not right!" he whispered to himself. What kind of propaganda were they spreading around the schools? Muttering to himself, he gathered up the thick sheaf of papers in his arms and swiftly dumped them in a nearby bin.

"Yo teach'!" yelled Eikichi suddenly. "What are you doing?" The lanky boy stared at Kenshin with a slight smirk on his face. Maybe he's totally snapped already! He sure is acting weird.

"Giving up already, eh?" Eikichi grinned. "Told ya you shouldn't mess with us."

Kenshin, meanwhile, was silent, staring down at the ground. Suddenly, he cleared his throat.

"War," he said slowly, "is..." It seemed that no-one was paying attention.

"Shh!" growled Eikichi suddenly, glaring at the other students. "Shut up and listen to what the dude has to say! I think it's gonna be good! I think he's already snapped! The weak ones are always the first to go nuts."

"War," Kenshin repeated, "is not glorious." One by one, the students began to shut their mouths and listen to what their teacher had to say.

"Nutcase," mouthed Eikichi, causing a few to giggle.

"When men fight each other," continued Kenshin, "there is no such thing as right, and there is no such thing as evil. There is only what we think is good, and what we think is bad. Often, war can distort these principles into impossible fanatical ideals..."

"He's definitely snapped... gone over the edge. I haven't seen someone go so out of it since the third grade, when I brought that dead rat to school and painted it with...."

"Although I believe in justice, peace and equality for all human beings, I have seen these ideals used as an excuse... in order to gain power. Although I think that the opposing side was wrong, I do not think that they were bad, or evil; they were simply fighting for what they believed in..."

"Psycho..." muttered Eikichi, twirling his finger around his temple. "Totally wacko."

All of a sudden, the door creaked open, and Mr. Ueno stepped into the classroom.

"Why Himura-san!" he gaped in disbelief. "I cannot believe it! Class 7-D.... they are quiet!"

"Whaddya mean, quiet?!" howled a kid from the back. "We ain't quiet! Get out, you bald old geezer!"

Ueno cringed and stepped behind Kenshin, as if seeking protection.

I cannot believe that he's lasted this long already! thought the vice-principal in amazement. I had him picked as an hour-man for sure!

"I don't think that you should be talking to Ueno-dono like that," said Kenshin mildly. "It is not very polite."

"Yeah, but shrimps are for eating, not for being polite to!" snarled the kid menacingly. "I'm gonna eat you aliiive, Ueno!"

"Aa!" exclaimed the small man in fear. "I just came in to tell you, Himura-san, that classes are ending right about...."

The bell began to clang loudly, and this time Kenshin jumped out of the way as the students rushed for the door, much like a stampeding herd of cattle.

"...now," finished the vice-principal, as he straightened his western-style suit and cracked glasses.

"Oro?" croaked Kenshin, as Ueno's expression changed from one of fear to one of satisfaction.

"I must congratulate you, Himura-san, on being so successful on your first day! Why..."

"Sessha doesn't really think that 'successful' is the right word de gozaru yo..."

"I would like you to consider staying here for longer than the original few days that was agreed upon." Ueno beamed at Kenshin, causing doubts to form in the back of the rurouni's mind. "You're a rare breed of man, Himura-san."

After Kenshin left the school, he made his way to the market, to pick up Kaoru's rice.

"Arigatou," he said quietly, as he dropped the coins into the stall-owner's hand. Kenshin hefted the heavy bag of rice onto his shoulder and began to make his way back to the dojo. As he rounded a corner, his sixth sense told him that there was someone following, trying to remain hidden. Kenshin sighed wearily and turned his thoughts to the large pile of laundry that was waiting for him at home.

As Kenshin unlocked the dojo gate he could sense that the person who had been following him was still nearby. Although Kenshin could feel no menace in the person's aura, the fact that someone was trailing him still made him nervous. After all, old habits died hard. Kenshin stood still for a moment and called out into the empty street.

"What do you want?" Still holding the bag of rice, he allowed his free had to drop to the hilt of the sakabatou. "Why are you following sessha? Please come out, or leave me alone."

"G...gomen..." Kenshin caught a glimpse of long black hair, followed by a pair of slender legs as the girl tentatively stepped around the corner of the dojo wall. "I'm sorry, Himura-sama. I just..."

"Ryoko-dono?" Kenshin raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Why were you following sessha?"

"I...." Tears were beginning to form in the corners of the girl's eyes. "I have nowhere to go!"

"Oro?" Exclaimed Kenshin in confusion. "What do you mean, Ryoko-dono? Where do you live?"

"It's not that I don't have a home, Himura-sama, it's just that... well..." Ryoko was obviously distraught, for she could not find it in herself to continue.

"Maa, maa," placated Kenshin, slowly pushing open the gate. "Come in, Ryoko-dono, and we will talk about what's bothering you."

"Oh thank you so much, Himura-sama." Ryoko followed Kenshin inside. Inwardly, the rurouni frowned. Why had she come to him of all people? He had only been teaching the class for one day.

Maybe she really does have nowhere to go.

"Took your time, Kenshin." As Kenshin made for the kitchen, he noticed Sano sitting on the steps, staring out at the setting sun. He was chewing on a fishbone. "What's to eat? I'm starving!"

"Oro?" Kenshin noticed that something was missing. "Where is Kaoru-dono?"

"Jou-chan went down to the river with Yahiko to train... something about him having to walk around with buckets of water all day. I think that your master inspired her."

"Shishou?" Kenshin suddenly felt a sudden stab of pity for the young Myojin. It was fair enough that the kid needed to build up his muscles, but carrying buckets of water was close to the worst torture imaginable.

"Oi!" exclaimed Sano suddenly, as Ryoko stepped out from behind Kenshin. The two were of about the same height; Kenshin was perhaps only a little taller. Ryoko wore a simple dark blue Kimono which hugged her slim waist snugly. Down her back cascaded long, silky black hair, reminding Sano a little of Megumi. "Who's the kid?" he asked, trying not to leer. Sano gave the girl the once-up-and-down; an appraising glance.

"Ryoko-dono was one of the students in the class today. She told me that she..."

"Whoa, whoa whoa!" Sano waved his hands in front of him. "You're telling me that you brought her home? From work? Kenshin, didn't anyone ever tell you that the whole teacher-student thing is just not on? You can't get your personal life mixed up with your work! You can't bring students home like lost puppies... I mean what would Kaoru say if you suddenly brought the whole class in for a free feed and..."

"Sano," warned Kenshin, and Ryoko was surprised to hear the steel in the rurouni's voice. "Sessha doesn't believe that you're in any position to talk about 'free food,' de gozaru yo. Sessha was just going to talk with Ryoko-dono about something; that's all."

"But..." Sano didn't have time to continue, for Kenshin had already moved silently past him, into the dojo. The rurouni padded down the hallway with Ryoko following, and placed the bag of rice in the kitchen. He bid Ryoko sit at the table.

"Would you like something to drink, Ryoko-dono? Some tea?"
"No, I'm fine, thankyou Himura-sama."

"I apologise for my friend Sano's behaviour. He can be a little... protective at times." Kenshin knelt alongside Ryoko and lay the sakabatou down on the wooden floor. "Now what is it that was troubling you?"

"I..." Ryoko put a slender hand to her breast. "This may sound silly to you, but I just don't want to go home! It's not that I have nowhere to live, it's just that... it's unfriendly at home. I feel like I'm trapped when I go back there."
"And why is that, Ryoko-dono?" The girl was surprised to see the sympathy in Kenshin's glistening violet eyes.

He really is too kind to be a proper teacher, she thought guiltily to herself. I don't know how he got that job.

"Mainly..." she snivelled, "mainly it's my parents."
"They're always fighting, and when I get home the house is silent, but it's a cold silence, as if they've built up an invisible wall between them. Sometimes it gets so bad that my father... he goes out drinking, and when he gets home he fights with my mother... she gets bruises from it... I see them, but she always acts as if nothing has happened. As soon ask her if she is hurt she turns around and says, 'it's nice weather today, isn't it, Ryoko-chan?' I don't know what to do!"

Kenshin looked down; for a moment he was silent. Then, he lifted his face to meet Ryoko's eyes, and his gaze was one of sadness.

"Do you want sessha to go and talk to your parents, Ryoko-dono?" he asked, fingering the hilt of his sakabatou thoughtfully.

"Well," murmured the girl, her eyes suddenly downcast. "I suppose so. I would appreciate it if you could, Himura-sama."

"Aa." Kenshin rose gracefully to his feet. "Where is your house, Ryoko-dono? Sessha will accompany you there, as it is beginning to get dark."

Kenshin maintained a quick pace, walking swiftly with Ryoko at his side. The sun had just dipped below the horizon, and the countryside was bathed in a glow of red. Dusk had brought out the cicadas, and their screeching was annoying Kenshin slightly; it prevented him from hearing the small things; from reaching out with his senses in the growing darkness.

"You live quite far from the school, Ryoko-dono..." commented Kenshin as he travelled down the path. Suddenly, he became aware of a silence. "Ryoko....?" Kenshin whirled around in alarm as he realised that the girl had collapsed in the middle of the road.

"Ryoko-dono!" he cried, rushing to her side. "What is wrong?"

"So... so tired..." panted Ryoko, breathing heavily. "Please, Himura-sama. Let me rest for a while..."

"Aa..." Kenshin gasped suddenly as Ryoko grabbed his gi and pulled him downwards, quite savagely.

"You know, Himura-sama," she purred, fingering a stray tendril of the rurouni's red mane, "you have the most fascinating hair. I have never seen hair that is quite this shade of red before... it's really very beautiful."

"O... oro?" Kenshin was too confused to form coherent speech. Ryoko's entire demeanour had suddenly changed from innocent-little-schoolgirl to temptress. What was going on?

"Shh, Himura-sama." Kenshin realised that Ryoko was untying her kimono. "I only wanted to tell you that I think you are a very kind person. Please, just be quiet and let me speak."

Kenshin gulped as Ryoko slid out of the kimono, revealing her well-rounded milky white breasts. "Ryoko-do..." he choked, transfixed and unable to move. The girl simply smirked. "I wanted to offer myself to you, Himura-sama, because..."

Kenshin reeled backwards as the darkness was suddenly pierced with a flash of blinding white light.

"Oro!" he exclaimed, as sounds of laughter began to reach his ears. "What...?"

Kenshin blinked as Eikichi suddenly jumped out from behind a stand of bushes, triumphant. In one hand, there was a camera, in the other, a three legged stand.

"I can't believe that he fell for it!!" howled the tall youth, laughing hysterically. "That was a magnificent performance, Ryoko! Absolutely brilliant! You got him hook, line and sinker!"

"Ryoko-dono?" Kenshin turned towards the half-naked girl in disbelief. "What is Eikichi-dono talking about?"

"Sorry, Himura-sama," said the girl sadly as Eikichi grinned and dropped some coins into her outstretched palm, "but he's paying me good money for this."

"It was... an act?" murmured Kenshin in disbelief. "Oro?"

"Money will get you anything in this era, didn't you know that, teacher-dude?" Eikichi was holding the camera as if it were the greatest treasure in the world. "Now," he snarled, "now I have leverage over you, Himura. I am going to make your life a living hell with this photo!"

"But... why?" asked Kenshin, confused. "Why would you do such a thing, Eikichi-dono?"
The tall youth shrugged. "Because you're the teacher, that's why. Simple, really."

Kenshin narrowed his eyes, as a feeling of anger began to work its way into his head. They had no right to do this to him; this went beyond simple annoyance.

I should teach the boy a good lesson, thought the rurouni in irritation. But he's still only a child; they're all just children.

Once again, Eikichi laughed. "You really are an idiot, you know that, Himura? I don't know why you thought that you could be a teacher. Don't you know that girls like Ryoko only go for the real men like me? Right, Ryoko?" Eikichi looked down to the raven-haired girl, who was quickly covering herself with her kimono.

"KEN-SHIN!!!" All of a sudden, an angry voice pierced the still night air.

"No!" mouthed Kenshin as he made out the unmistakeable figure of Kaoru on the horizon, dragging a hapless Yahiko behind her. For the first time, the rurouni stared at Eikichi with real coldness in his eyes.

Kaoru had been walking back from the river with Yahiko in tow when she saw it. A red-haired figure, sitting in the middle of the road; beside what appeared to be another person.

"No..." she whispered to herself. "It can't be..."

Not Kenshin; he would never...

"Ouch! Busu, let go of my wrist! You're hurting me!!!"

Suddenly, there was a bright flash, and Kaoru saw that the other person in the road had... taken off her kimono.

"Whoa!" whispered Yahiko to himself. "That's.... those are... it's..." The young samurai was going a little goggle-eyed. "Tits!"

Kaoru meanwhile, had stopped, and clenched her fists tightly.

It's not Kenshin... can't be Kenshin... is not...

Kaoru didn't know of any other slight, red-haired men who wore fuchsia-coloured gis and white hakamas.

Why is he just sitting there in the middle of the road.... staring? Hentai!
"KEN-SHIN!" she screamed, unable to contain herself. In the distance, a flock of birds fluttered out of the trees and flew off into the night sky.

"Uh oh," muttered Yahiko, under his breath. "Busu's angry."

"Eikichi," said Kenshin harshly as he suddenly appeared in the doorway of class 7-D. "Get off the table and sit down."

"Wha....?" The boy was momentarily shocked at the tone of the rurouni's voice. "Ohhh, I see." He slid off the desk and moved to his chair. "Himura's pissed off.... about what happened last night..."

Kenshin walked slowly into the classroom, ignoring the jeers and catcalls which were directed his way. "Eikichi, I think that I have been very patient with you for far too long now. You will learn to control your behaviour from now on."

"Or what?" Eikichi was unaware of the fact that Kenshin's violet eyes had taken on a steely blue glint. "That tanuki girl of yours will beat me up with her bokken? Man, I've never seen another guy look so whipped in his life!"

"Please do not refer to Kaoru-dono in that manner." Kenshin's thoughts quickly turned to Kaoru and her anger at seeing him in the middle of the road last night... doing nothing more than staring at Ryoko's exposed breasts. Of course, there had been the mandatory bokken-on-the-head, leaving Kenshin with a slight bump on his temple, however the rurouni had positioned himself so that the hurt would be minimal. Kenshin had recognised that Kaoru needed an outlet for her rage.

The only thing that had rankled was that she wouldn't talk to him after that. She wouldn't even give him the chance to explain. Before Kenshin had left for the school that morning, there had been a stony cold silence in the dojo; even Sano and Yahiko had not bothered to fight over the tofu for once.

She just needs some time... for her temper to cool, surmised Kenshin as he walked over to the desk. She will come to her senses soon and realise that it was all a mistake. That I was not to blame.

"Open your textbooks to page one hundred and three." Kenshin was not in the mood for politeness this morning. Today, he was not asking, but commanding. To his surprise, the class was strangely silent.


At that moment, Kenshin's sixth sense told him to move out of the way. Luckily for him, his god-like speed allowed him to be well clear of the teacher's desk, just as something large and bloody came crashing down from above. Kenshin looked across to where he had been sitting just before. On the chair was a freshly butchered pig's head.

"Dammit, Eikichi!" yelled some kid from the back of the class. "It missed him!"

"Did you see that? I can't believe that he dodged it!"

Kenshin dusted his white hakama and looked up slowly. All of a sudden, he looked up.

"Did you all think that that was funny?" he asked the class quietly. "Did it amuse you?"

Eikichi was still blissfully unaware of Kenshin's bad mood. "Not as much as it should have, Himura. I mean, it missed, god-damn it!"

The rurouni shook his head, and did not bother to reply. All this time, he had been letting Eikichi and the others get away with things; the little things, because he had thought that kids liked to play jokes; that it was part of their nature to do so. Kenshin had not had much of a proper childhood; he had grown up at a much younger age than any of these juvenile brats, and so he had thought that they were just behaving like normal kids - until now.

This went beyond simple practical joking. Something was seriously wrong here. Suppose that he hadn't been able to save himself; suppose that he hadn't been fast enough to move out of the way.

"What's wrong, teacher-dude? You scared? You've gone all worried-looking."

Kenshin folded his arms and glared at Eikichi. The tall student simply stared back, defiantly.

"Actually," said Kenshin, "I was worried about you, Eikichi. I don't think that you will last long when - no, if - you ever graduate from this school."

"Huh?!" Eikichi was unable to stifle the sudden confused gasp which escaped his mouth. "What you talking about? I'll survive just fine after I leave school. As long as I've got my brains, my looks and my katana, that is." He was trying to retain some of his old braggadocio, but Kenshin's comment had caught the student unawares.

Maybe he really has gone nuts, thought Eikichi in wonder. Well, there's only one way to find out.

An idea had popped into Eikichi's head; an idea which had worked countless times before. The basis of this idea had been formed by Eikichi's genius mind when he was just four years old. It relied on inane repetition, and had not failed him yet.

"I know a song," Eikichi began to sing quietly, his voice echoing in the silent classroom, "that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves....." Several of the other students began to giggle. "I know a song that will get on your nerves, and it goes something like this!"

Kenshin stared at the boy for a moment, clearly not amused.

What is wrong with him... with them? It is mostly Eikichi; the other students just seem to follow, but I don't understand why he acts so stupidly... it doesn't make sense. Perhaps it is only his...

"I know a song that will get on your nerves," sang Eikichi, as a few of the class began to join in, "and it goes something like this!"
"Stop it." snapped Kenshin. "Stop acting so ridiculously. You disgrace yourselves."

If anything, Kenshin's annoyance only served to add fuel to the fire, for even more of the students started to sing. Kenshin glared at the class as they increased the volume. They could sense it now; they could feel that something was about to break.

The class had a pack mentality; they were a bunch of hungry young wolves, and Kenshin was...

Well, Kenshin was starting to get angry.

"Be quiet," he said loudly, "please, be quiet now. It is the last time that I will warn you."

The rurouni had always thought that he had a good rein on his own temper; that he could control himself fairly well. It was strange, then, that he should feel so irrationally angry at a class of students who were doing nothing but singing senseless children's songs.

But what could he do to stop them?
Eikichi, sensing the teacher's hesitation, began to sing even louder. Kenshin weighed his options in his mind.

He could simply leave; just walk out of the classroom and say goodbye to the job, but that would be like admitting defeat to Saitou, and Kenshin did not like to lose any kind of battle, even if it was one of tolerance.

He could wait until the class just tired of singing; he could sit there and wait until their throats dried and their voices were reduced to hoarse whispers, however that would just make them think that they could get away with murder around him; it might even lead them into contemplating such a thing. No, stretching his patience was also out of the question.

Kenshin clenched his fists and tried to fight down his rising anger, but to no avail. Even Kenshin's temper was not an infinite thing. It could only be stretched so far.

All of a sudden, Kenshin did the only thing that he could, under such circumstances.

He snapped.

Eikichi kept singing. In fact, he rather liked the sound of his own voice; he thought that it was rather fine. The fact that he had quite a decent tenor was probably the reason why he did not hear nor notice Kenshin approaching his desk. Slowly, one by one, all of the other students were beginning to shut up, until Eikichi was the only one singing.

Oh the emotion! At that moment, Eikichi's eyes were closed, and his cheeks were rosy red. He felt happy; triumphant. As soon as this Himura guy snapped, he would be up to a tally of exactly ten.

Ten teachers that he, personally, had driven insane.

"I know a song that will..."


"AAH!" Eikichi's eyes snapped open as he felt something whir past his face. "What the..."



As Eikichi looked down, he saw the two halves of his desk clatter to the ground. The solid wooden table had been sliced cleanly in half. Slowly, his eyes travelled upwards... past the strange reversed blade sword... up to Kenshin's stony face. The rurouni's long red fringe hid his eyes.

"What the..." for once, Eikichi was too shocked to come back with a clever retort. "You... you...."

Normally, the teachers went through some kind of mental-breakdown stage. In all of his years, Eikichi had never seen anyone react so violently before. To say that he was surprised would be nothing but an understatement.

"Hh... Himura..."

"I think that you must have misunderstood me the first time," said Kenshin, and Eikichi shivered at the sound of the teacher's voice. It was so, so.... cold. "I told you to shut the hell up."

"What are you talking about?! I just...." Eikichi went no further, for at that moment, Kenshin turned the full force of his glare upon the boy.

"Uhhh..." Eikichi clamped his mouth shut, as he realised that Kenshin's eyes had turned a harsh yellow; the student had never before seen such.... creepy... eyes.

Shit! Oh shit shit shit. He looks as if he's going to murder someone! Probably... me. I heard someone say that it was always the quiet ones who were the biggest nutcases once. Guess it must be kinda true. Shit!

"Your desk seems to be broken," continued Kenshin, impaling Eikichi with his flat gaze. "Fix it."


"I said, fix it."

Yep, the teacher's definitely gone crazy. But he wasn't meant to go this kind of crazy! This is wrong, psycho, scary crazy!

Kenshin was still holding his sword; he hadn't lowered it, and as Eikichi bent down to pick up the two halves of his table, he could feel the point; he could almost anticipate it stabbing into him...


The thick wooden desk was heavy, and Eikichi grunted as he pushed the two back together and held them there.

"That's better." Eikichi sighed with relief as his psycho-teacher lowered the sakabatou. "Now keep it like that."

"What?! But I can't..."

"You had better, because your life depends on it."

"Huh?!" Eikichi whimpered in pain. The desk was damn heavy, and now he had to spend the rest of the day holding it together?! "You... you're evil!" he moaned, unable to help himself. The student cringed as Kenshin once again met his eyes.

"Define 'evil', boy. Is it me who is evil? Is it you who is evil? I don't ever recall having tried to drop a pig's head on someone." Kenshin looked down at Eikichi dispassionately. "Your desk is slipping," he commented before sheathing his sword and turning around. Of course Kenshin, - Battousai - wasn't really going to kill the kid, but he figured that intimidation; striking pure fear into the heart of Eikichi was the best way that he could get him to shut up right about now. Seeing the boy quiver in fear had lessened his fury somewhat, but he was still angry - angry that he had been driven to this.

"Now," said Kenshin quietly as he walked to the front of the classroom. "We are going back to what we started to learn yesterday. I want all of you to write me a ten page essay on what you know about the Bakumatsu."

"But..." several of the students were foolish enough to hesitate; they hadn't ever written more than ten pages, and such a great amount of work was almost beyond their comprehension.

"Ten pages," said Kenshin frostily, "or you die."

"B...but I'm holding a fricken desk!" stuttered Eikichi in disbelief. Surely Himura-the-nutcase didn't expect him to...

"I don't care. I want ten pages from you, too."

There was a collective gasp from the students as twenty heads suddenly dropped, and pens began to fly. If there was one thing - apart from killing people - that Battousai did well, it was that he made the most real-seeming death threats.

Somewhere, deep inside, Kenshin felt a stab of guilt at the fear that he had suddenly struck into the students, however this was swept away quickly as he saw them start to write. Each and every one of the students in class 7-D was actually doing something that they rarely ever did.... if ever.

Class 7-D was actually doing schoolwork.

"Look at them," whispered Mr. Ueno to The Director of the Board of Education, Mr. Tamataro, as the two short, bald men peered in through a crack in the door. "They're all... writing... not one of them is talking. I have never, never in my entire life seen such a phenomenon! It's... indescribable! I tell you Tamataro-san, that Himura is the best thing that has happened to Tokyo district school since we got those uncomfortable western chairs and desks!"
"Hmmm," murmured Tamataro, putting a hand to his chin. "That, I admit, is quite impressive. How does he do it?" With a flick of his wrist, Tamataro pushed open the door to class 7-D and strode in. There was an imperious air about the man, and Ueno could do nothing but follow blindly, forcing himself to ignore any fears that he might be called a 'shrimp' once again.

Kenshin was leaning on the teacher's desk, his arms crossed, and his head down. Pens were still scribbling furiously. Ueno walked over to Kenshin's side, thinking that the teacher hadn't noticed their entrance.
"Ueno," said Kenshin suddenly, turning to face the vice-principal. "Good morning."

Ueno stifled a gasp. "Hi... Himura-san? Is... is something wrong?"

There's something terribly different about him today, thought the short man worriedly. His eyes... weren't they... a different colour before?

Kenshin simply stared at Ueno, and the man unconsciously stepped backwards. "No, Ueno. Nothing is wrong. I have this class under control."

Tamataro decided that it was time to interrupt. "I must admit," he exclaimed heartily, clapping Kenshin on the back, "that I have never seen anything quite like this before. It's extraordinary - the way in which you subdued this class so quickly! No-one has ever been able to do such a thing!" Tamataro leaned in close to Kenshin. "Tell me, Himura-san. What... what is the secret to your teaching technique? How did you make this class behave?"

Battousai looked at Tamataro, his expression deadpan. "It's simple," he said after a slight pause. "I threatened to kill them."

"Oh I see," laughed Tamataro, thinking that Kenshin was joking. "That's quite funny, Himura-san." The director winked conspiratorially. "Now tell me; what's your real secret?"

Kenshin did not bother to reply; he simply stared Tamataro in the face. The director blinked in confusion.

"No..." he stuttered, shaking his head. "You... you're not serious.... Himura-san?"

Kenshin's cold expression, however, gave every single indication that he was not joking. Tamataro began to turn red.

"But...bbut that's insane! You can't just threaten to kill people around here! Why... it's.... it's... It's against the law!"

"They're quiet, aren't they?" Kenshin indicated the silent class with a slight flick of his chin. "I don't see what the problem is."

"But... it totally goes against school policy! This is a bad way to teach, Himura-san! We don't want our children to grow up as violent killers... we want them to be the leaders of tomorrow! You're setting a bad example for them!"

Battousai narrowed his eyes and glared at Tamataro. The director gulped.

"I will leave now if you want to teach these brats, Tamataro." Kenshin's hand had unconsciously dropped to the hilt of his sakabatou. "Otherwise, don't interfere. This is my class, and I will teach it in any way that I see fit."

"Uhh..." Tamataro was about to protest, however he clamped his mouth shut upon seeing the look in Kenshin's eyes. It would be pointless to argue with this man, surmised the director. In fact, arguing with this man would be downright... scary.

"Very well." Tamataro finally clapped his hands together in a false show of bravado, and started to back out of the classroom, dragging Ueno furiously behind him. "I'll leave you to it then... Himura-san."

Kenshin simply nodded as the two frightened teachers backed out of the classroom, slamming the door a little forcefully behind them. Once Tamataro was outside, he grabbed Ueno by the collar and backed the vice principal up against the wall.
"What were you thinking, putting a man like that in charge of a class like that! The school has a bad enough reputation as it is! I don't want to have to add any student murders to the list!"
"Bbbbut..." stuttered Ueno, gasping for breath. "He's doing the job alright, isn't he?"

Tamataro shook his head in despair. "No, Ueno. You can't teach a class by threatening them. Didn't you run a full background check on this man? Where did you find him?"

"Actually..." Ueno looked down at his feet. "That policeman... Fujita Goro.. recommended him..."

"What?!" spluttered Tamataro, outraged. "And you... you trust the word of Goro of all people? I've seen the way that that man operates; I don't think that he's entirely... sane." Tamataro paused, thinking to himself. "I guess that it would make sense for one psychopath to recommend another...You know, it was rumoured that during the Bakumatsu, Goro actually..." A sudden thought caused Tamataro to stop cold.

"Ueno," he said suddenly, urgently. "That scar - the one on Himura's cheek... It wasn't by any chance... a cross shape was it?"

"Actually..." Ueno had suddenly turned as pale as a sheet. "I think that it was."

"Flaming red hair; a cross-scar..."

"Oh my God..."

"What the hell were you thinking..."

"It didn't register at first. I just... He seemed so..."

Tamataro released his grip on Ueno's neck, and the smaller man gasped for air.

"Ueno," he cried, his voice full of desperation. "What the hell were you thinking, hiring... the Hitokiri Battousai as... a schoolteacher?!"

"But... he was so friendly... so polite... I didn't think that he would be some kind of insane murderer at the time!" Ueno's hands were shaking. "Oh God... what have I done?!"

"You have to go in there, Ueno," commanded Tamataro. "Go in there right now and tell Himura that it was all a mistake; that he is not qualified for the job, and that you want him to resign. Go now!"

Ueno shook his head fearfully. "No. Why don't you go, Tamataro? Just go in there and tell the most feared assassin in all of Japan to get out of your school. I would go, you know, but right now, I don't want my head to be sliced off."

Tamataro froze in shock. There was no way that he was going back in that classroom; not now. He almost felt sorry for the students of class 7-D. Almost.

"What can we do, then?" he whined plaintively. "What can we do?"

"Get Goro," suggested Ueno, as he began to walk rapidly away from the dreaded classroom. "That damned policeman got us into this; he can get us out of it as well."

Kenshin looked up suddenly as his sharp ears detected the sound of a pen hitting the desk.

"What is it?" he asked quietly, frightening the wits out of Ryoko, who had just finished writing the ten pages. She was silently massaging her sore, red right hand.

"I... I just... finished, Himura-sama," she stuttered, indicating the pile of paper on the table. Kenshin nodded and walked over to Ryoko.

"Very well," he said quietly. "You will take your morning break now. Do not come back late, and do not leave. I will find you if you do."

Ryoko nodded nervously, and waited until Kenshin had walked back to the front before daring to stand up.

"As for the rest of you," said Kenshin, "you will not leave until you have finished."

There was silence, except for the sound of more scribbling. All of a sudden, Eikichi stood up, trying to still his shaking legs. He was afraid, but he did not want to show it. Below him, the two halves of his desk clattered noisily to the floor.

"I... I've finished too...." he choked, having difficulty getting the words out, "H... Himura-sama." Even thought the ten pages were almost unreadable - a result of the fact that Eikichi had been holding the desk up with his one free hand - he really had to get out of the classroom. To put it quite literally, his life depended on it.

"Give me your papers."

"Yes... sir..." Eikichi handed the papers to Kenshin, and then darted out of the classroom, in pursuit of Ryoko. He spotted the girl running down the long hallway of the school building; Eikichi had to sprint to catch her.
"Ryoko!" he gasped, as he reached her side slightly out of breath. "Where are you going? He... he said that he'd find you if you tried to leave!"

"Idiot!" snarled Ryoko, as she sped up. "I'm scared out of my wits! Of course I'm going back to the class! Before that though.... I'm going to get help!"

"Help?" Eikichi narrowed his eyes in confusion. "But who could help us?"

"Someone who's a friend of Himura, someone who could maybe stop him from being so angry with us..."

"But someone who's also strong, in case things get violent..."


"I'm talking about Zanza, silly." Ryoko ran down the streets, heading for the place that she had been last night; the Kamiya dojo. Eikichi had no choice but to follow. He had no idea where they were going, but he followed the raven-haired girl down the street, until they turned a corner and sped through a small alley. They came out onto a wide road which Ryoko crossed. On the other side was a small, slightly run-down looking dojo. Ryoko ran to the gate and banged on it with her fist.

"Hellooo!' she called out, sounding slightly desperate. "Is anyone home?!"

Ryoko gasped as the gate was suddenly yanked open.

"Yes?" Kaoru's face suddenly appeared in the gateway. It was flushed, and her hair was slicked flat with sweat. In Kaoru's hand was a bokken.

"Uhhh... err..." Ryoko was lost for words as she recognised the angry face of Himura's... woman... or whatever. "Miss Kaoru?"
"What do you want?" snarled Kaoru, recognising Ryoko. She was in no mood for politeness.

"Uhhh... it's just that.... err..."

Eikichi shook his head. Ryoko was surely making a mess of things. He decided to intervene. After all, it wasn't long before Himura expected them back, and he didn't want to be on the sharp end of the teacher's sword.

"Please, Miss Kaoru. We desperately need your help. I am incredibly sorry for what happened last night; it was all my idea. I Himura up and tried to blackmail him. Don't blame Ryoko. It was my fault. Please, just forgive me. We really don't have time to argue right now!"

"What... you mean that..." Kaoru was suddenly confused... In all of her astonishment, she had only seen Kenshin sitting in the middle of the road, staring at a pair of exposed breasts. It had been a horrible kick in the teeth. Kaoru had not thought, back then, that it might have been an accident... what were the chances of an accident like that happening? All that night, and the following morning, she had refused to talk to the rurouni, and allowed the anger to simmer inside of her. After all, anger was an easy thing to hold onto, even against Kenshin, who, she now realised, had not been to blame. Kaoru, however, had been too shocked at the time to even think straight.

"Oh Kenshin," she sighed finally. Suddenly, Kaoru looked up into the green eyes of the tall youth before her. Her gaze turned hard. "So, after what you did, you're coming to ask my help? Why do you need my help?"

"Actually," Eikichi was strangely subdued. "We were looking for Zanza, but I think that you could help us too. The fact is that.... we have a problem at school.... with Himura.... sama."

"Kenshin?" Kaoru sounded surprised. "Why should there be a problem with Kenshin? Is he not teaching your properly? Do you want me to go over there and..."

"No, it's not that... it's just that..."


At that moment, Sano appeared behind Kaoru with a piece of fish in his hand. He slurped up the juicy piece of flesh and then licked his fingers.

"What?" he repeated, echoing Kaoru's question.

"Uhh... well, I don't really know how to explain this, but... Himura has sorta... snapped. He's gone psycho on us."

"What?!" Sano slapped a hand to his head and groaned. "You mean to tell me that you brats pissed him off? Like... really pissed him off?"

"Eheheheh," Eikichi turned red, and Ryoko hid her face in shame. "Yeah."

"Idiot!" Eikichi didn't even see the flat of Sano's palm as it suddenly whipped up and whacked him on the underside of the head. "What did I tell you about pissing Kenshin off?! Huh!? What did I tell you?! You've gone and done it now!"

"Please, Sano," whimpered Ryoko, her dark eyes glistening with tears. "You have to help us! He... he threatened to kill us if we didn't write him a ten page essay in less than an hour!"

Sano whistled softly. "Ten pages, eh? I never knew that Kenshin could be so cruel, but then again..."

"Yeah, and it was so hard; he was just staring at us with those awful yellow eyes the whole time. I could hardly concentrate!"

Sano shook his head in dismay.

So the kids sent Kenshin nuts... he's gone Battousai. Figures, with a bunch of brats like that.

"Serves you right, you little bastards," muttered the gangster aloud. "Maybe I shouldn't do anything at all. You can have Kenshin as your teacher for the rest of the year."

"NO!" yelled both Eikichi and Ryoko simultaneously. "Anything but that. Please, Zanza! You have to help us!"
"First things first," said Sano, "call me Sano, not Zanza. I don't go by that name anymore. Secondly, what the hell do you want me to do about it?"

"Uhh... we were thinking that you could kind of... you know... go and talk him out of it?"

Sano shook his head. "If you want someone to go talk Kenshin out of anything, then Jou-chan is probably the best person for it. I've never been the diplomatic type if you know what I mean."

Eikichi nodded in understanding and turned to Kaoru. "So, Miss Kaoru," he began, sounding somewhat desperate. "Will you come and help us?! Please?!"

Kaoru sighed insufferably, drawing out the kids pain for a little longer. "Very well," she said finally, after a slight pause. "I'll come with you."

"Yeah, me too," said Sano, as he suddenly magically pulled a fishbone from somewhere on his person and stuck it in his mouth.

"Great!" enthused Eikichi in relief. "That means that we have a backup plan... if things don't work out..."

Sano shook his head and laughed humourlessly. "Kid, if you're thinking that I'm gonna get into a fight with Kenshin, then think again. Last time I tried to fight him, he whipped me without even trying."

"Great," gulped Eikichi. All of his momentary relief had suddenly been forgotten. In a sudden desperate gesture, he cast his eyes towards the heavens.

Please, God, I'll do anything; I'll even do my homework and stop driving teachers nuts. Just get that Himura-freak out of our classroom!

Both Ueno and Tamataro stood nervously outside Saitou Hajime, A.K.A. Fujita Goro's office, whispering to each other. Suffice to say that, although neither man would admit it, they were both slightly afraid. After all, the reputation of Tokyo's most feared policeman preceded him.

"You go first!" urged Tamataro, as he prodded Ueno in the back. The other small man yelped and spun around.

"No!" he protested. "You're the Director of the Board of Education. You go!"

"You're the one who got us into this mess in the first place!"

"But it's your responsibility to get us out of it...."

"Me? Why should I..."

"Is there a problem here, gentlemen?" Suddenly, Saitou appeared from nowhere, causing both Ueno and Tamataro to jump. Saitou indicated to the teachers that they should enter his office. The two men walked inside timidly and sat down in the hard, uncomfortable chairs, watching anxiously as Saitou took a drag of his cigarette.

"And what can I do for you?" asked the policeman neutrally. Tamataro was surprised; he hadn't expected this Fujita Goro to be so polite.

"Well," began Ueno hesitantly, "you know that substitute teacher whom you sent me the other day?"

"Yes?" Saitou arched one black eyebrow. "What is the problem? Is that fool Ba... ehem I mean Himura being too soft with the children?"

"No, actually, it's kinda the opposite... you see... he's kinda..."

"Himura's a bit..." Ueno just didn't know how to say it. He was not a direct kind of person, and he didn't want to displease Goro by seeming ungrateful. Tamataro, however, did not share the same kind of restraint.

"Your bloody replacement teacher is nuts!" he spat suddenly, as Saitou's cold, pale gaze shifted to him. Tamataro tried to repress a shudder. "He's threatened to... kill the students!!!"
"Really?" Saitou stubbed his cigarette out with a white-gloved hand and regarded Tamataro curiously. There was something in that yellow gaze which frightened the director.

Those eyes... they're the same kind of eyes... I wonder if coming to Goro was really the right thing to do?

"Tell me," said the policeman, as his eyes continued to bore into Tamataro. "Himura's eyes... what colour were they?"

Ueno's gaze unfocused slightly as he remembered Battousai's chilling stare. "They were the most terrifying yellow colour..." he murmured suddenly, "I have never seen eyes so cold before.. they were like..."

All of a sudden, Saitou grinned; making Ueno feel like a rabbit staring a wolf in the face. The small vice principal unconsciously shrank backwards.

"So, he's finally come to his senses then, has he?" The policeman stood up, and both Ueno and Tamataro did not miss the fact that Saitou's hand had dropped to the hilt of his nihontou.

'Wh... what are you going to do?" stuttered Tamataro uncomfortably. Goro didn't exactly look like he was going to mete out righteous justice any time soon; instead, his expression was somewhat... vicious?

"Batt... I mean Himura and I have some unfinished business that we must settle."

In fact, if Tamtaro didn't know any better, he would say that this Fujita Goro was spoiling for a fight.

"But... you are going to get him out of that classroom, aren't you? I mean... you're not..." Ueno's discomfort was growing by the minute. "And.. you're not going to tell him that it was us who complained to you, are you? I wouldn't want Batt... I mean Himura to you know..." The vice principal made a small slicing motion with his hands, causing Saitou's cruel smile to widen. His panic increasing, Ueno made eye-contact with Tamataro, who just shook his head in dismay.

"Why the hell did we come here?!" hissed Tamataro through his teeth as Saitou strode out of his office. "Now we have two madmen on the loose!"

Battousai picked up another paper, and began to read. It was the last of the essays that had been handed to him, and the writing was disappointingly messy; the characters ill-formed.

The Bakoomastoo was a big event in history and it was a war.

"No shit," muttered Kenshin in dismay. How ignorant people were today.

I think that it was bad becoz of all the pollitcle propergander, and the fact that a lot of people dyde but it brought the Mayjee error which is good.

"Pathetic." The teacher could not bear to read any more. In disgust, he tossed the paper down on the table with a sharp flick of his wrist. Looking up, Battousai stared dispassionately as another student crept into the silent classroom and made his way quickly to an empty desk. They were all here - early, nonetheless - except for the girl, Ryoko, and that insolent brat Eikichi. Kenshin shook his head. Never mind, he would deal with those two later.

Kenshin glared at his class as they waited in dreadful anticipation of what was to come.

"Pick up your pens," he growled, and twenty or so hands rushed to obey. "I always knew that you were a bunch of insolent brats, but I did not think that you were such stupid insolent brats." Kenshin picked up a piece of chalk and moved over to the blackboard. "I am going to have to teach you idiots how to spell."

Not a single word from the class. They were far too scared to even offer the meekest of protests.

As Kenshin began to write on the board, he suddenly sensed a strong ken-ki coming from outside the classroom. Of course, he instantly recognised the familiar aura.

"Saitou," he growled, and the chalk snapped in his fingers. Moments later, the door to class 7-D swung open and the policeman stalked in, his nihontou unsheathed.

"It's the police!" yelled one of the students in surprise. "We're saved!"

Kenshin silenced the class with a glare and then diverted his attention to Saitou. "What do you want?" he demanded, his hand dropping to the hilt of the sakabatou. Between them, the air seemed to crackle with barely restrained energy.

"I believe that we have some unfinished business to attend to, Battousai."

"Hn." Kenshin smirked arrogantly. "I did not know that you were so eager to die, Saitou."

"Hah." Saitou could give as good as he got. "Tell me that again when you're impaled on my sword, you bastard. It's time for me to finally defeat you, Battousai."

"Dude," one of the kids at the back elbowed his classmate gently. "Did that police-guy just call Himura... Battousai?"


"Oh, shit. You don't mean Battousai... like the Battousai in the stories that my mother used to tell me when I was a little kid... to scare me out of picking people's pockets... do you?"

"I don't think...." The other boy shook his head dubiously. "It couldn't be!"
"She used to say, 'one day, Shinji, you'll stick your hand in someone's pocket, and it'll be the Hitokiri Battousai, and he'll turn around and slice it off!'" Shinji looked at his friend worriedly. "I can tell you that it sure put me off stealing for the rest of my life."

"But it can't be... I mean, that was..."

The attention of the youths was suddenly diverted as Saitou dropped into a menacing stance with his sword held above his head.

"Huh? Hey Shinji, what kind of a stance is that? It looks weird..." The ungainly appearance of the gatotsu had confused some of the students. Surely this guy wasn't for real.

"Idiot! That's the gatotsu stance! It's Goro's most lethal attack!"

Battousai tensed and gripped the hilt of his sakabatou, ready to unsheathe. The air became heavy with anticipation as the students saw Kenshin and Saitou glare at each other with death in their eyes. This wasn't some kind of silly grudge match or a petty show of strength. No, this was something else; something real and lethal. Shinji gasped as Saitou rushed towards Himura, letting out a blood curdling scream. Swords clashed, and then the two warriors were moving across the floor of the classroom, attacking and dodging in a flurry of blows which were almost too fast for the students to see.

"Shit," hissed Shinji. "And Eikichi tried to rile this guy?! He's lucky that he's still alive!"

"Whoa!" Class 7-D suddenly jumped out of their seats in fright and rushed to the furthest corner of the room as a piece of desk, neatly sliced by Saitou's nihontou, came flying their way. The policeman swung downwards, aiming for Kenshin's legs as the red-head jumped up onto the solid wood of the teacher's table. The students watched in fascination as Saitou suddenly lowered his sword and stared up at Battousai.

"The gatotsu is getting old, Saitou," sneered Kenshin as he looked down at the former Shinsengumi. "I've seen that attack far too many times for you to be able to beat me with it."

"Really?" Saitou's eyes travelled up to Kenshin's shoulder. There was a slight tear in his fuchsia gi, and the material was stained with blood where Saitou's blade had managed to slice into the flesh. "Then why is your shoulder bleeding?"

"Fuu..." Kenshin did not seem worried. "Just because you managed to scratch me does not mean that your attack is effective."

"Gyaah!" Suddenly, Saitou's sword came down onto the solid oak desk, slicing it cleanly in half as Kenshin dodged by a hair's width. Then, Kenshin became nothing more than a blur as he suddenly disappeared and reappeared behind Saitou. The students gasped as their teacher swung his sakabatou around in a fluid arc and connected... with the back of Saitou's head.

"Aaahhh!" exclaimed one student in shock as the policeman was sent flying... into the classroom door. "But... he was using the blunt edge of the blade! What would have happened if...?" The words were left unspoken as Saitou pulled his head out of the door and wiped the blood from his cheek. The policeman spat, and a tooth clattered to the floor in a small spray of blood.

"Hah." He smiled humourlessly. "It's good that you have not decided to act weak today, Battousai. I might just be able to have a decent fight for the first time in ten years."

Kenshin was not amused. "A fight that will end in your death, you mean."

"I think that you are mistaken, Battousai. It will be my pleasure to send you to hell."

The students gulped. Was this policeman insane? Himura had just sent the man flying head-first into the door, and now he gets up and thinks that the fight is just about to start!

Saitou rushed at Kenshin once again, and the two once again darted across the room, slashing and dodging with inhuman speed. They did not notice the petrified white faces of Ueno and Tamataro which suddenly peered in through the hole that Saitou's head had made in the door.

"They're... they're tearing up the classroom!" choked Tamataro in anguish. All those government dollars... now gone to waste as the new desks turned to woodchips right before their eyes. "Someone has to stop them! Look at the children! They're huddling in fear at the back of the classroom! Somebody is going to get hurt! You don't... you just don't have a swordfight in the middle of the classroom like that!"

Both Ueno and Tamataro suddenly drew back in horror as Battousai was sent flying towards the door by a vicious swipe from Saitou's sword.

"Gah!" Ueno gasped as Kenshin hit the door square in the centre with his feet and rebounded off it, causing the already splintered wood to crack. "They're... unstoppable! What are we going to do?!"

"KENSHIN!!!" Suddenly, Ueno's breath caught in his throat as a young woman burst through the door with a tall man in tow. Kaoru did not heed the dangerous sweep of Saitou's nihontou as she dodged and made her way to the other side of the classroom. Ryoko and Eikichi came to a stop in the doorway, fearfully taking in the sight of broken desks and drawn swords. Kaoru, on the other hand, had no such reservations.
"Kenshin!" she snapped loudly, as the sakabatou sliced across the blackboard, causing several students to groan in agony. "KEN-SHIN!!!" This could not be happening again; Kaoru would not allow it to happen again!

At the sound of her voice, both Battousai and Saitou paused momentarily. "Do not interfere Kamiya," warned the policeman dangerously. "This is between me and Battousai."

Much to Kaoru's dismay, Kenshin nodded in agreement. "Stay out of this Kaoru," he said with a steely voice. The coldness in his tone caused Kaoru's heart to skip a beat.

"But..." Kaoru searched Kenshin's eyes frantically for any hint of her rurouni. It appeared that Battousai had taken too firm a hold for Kenshin to listen... so what could she do? There had to be some way to rein in Kenshin's temper... what on Earth could she do?!

"Shit." From his vantage in the doorway, Eikichi caught a glimpse of Kenshin's yellow gaze as the teacher stared at Saitou. If there was a look that said 'cold bloody murder,' then this was it. The glare was a terrifying thing to behold, and Eikichi was glad that the look wasn't directed at him. As he thought about what he had done to Kenshin, Eikichi's knees turned to jelly. Strangely enough, the tall policeman seemed to pay the death-threat no mind; he simply returned the stare in kind. Eikichi shook his head in confusion. Since when had things developed into such a brutal and dangerous fight? Ryoko and he had returned to find the classroom wrecked and the students petrified, all thanks to the two insane fighters who now faced each other across the floor of the classroom.

What are we gonna do now? They're totally nuts!
He had asked for Miss Kaoru and Zanza's help to stop Himura from teaching their class. He hadn't expected Himura to be in the midst of a violent duel with Tokyo's most feared policeman. Eikichi glanced over to Miss Kaoru who had somehow managed to dart across to the other side of the classroom. She appeared to be staring at Himura with a... determined expression upon her face.

"The chick's brave!" muttered Eikichi to himself as Kaoru glared at Battousai, unafraid. All of a sudden, she began to walk towards Kenshin, just as Saitou began to charge.

"Wait!" he yelled suddenly, changing his mind. The girl wasn't brave at all; she was totally insane! Just like Himura; just like the policeman. "Miss Kaoru! What are you doing?!" The raven-haired woman seemed totally oblivious to the danger.

Kaoru paid little heed to Eikichi's anguished yell; she was too busy concentrating; searching for an opening. To her right, she was aware of Saitou rushing towards Kenshin. Then, there was an earth shattering thud as the two swords clashed. Kaoru felt herself being pushed backwards slightly by the force of the two warriors' ken-ki.

Not yet, Kaoru, she thought to herself, fully aware of the danger of what she was doing. Strangely enough, she did not feel the slightest bit afraid. No, she had learned to trust Kenshin far too much to feel afraid.

Just wait for it... wait.... Kaoru tensed, preparing for that split second when....


As Kenshin forced Saitou to jump backwards with a defensive slash of the sakabatou, Kaoru sprang.

"Kenshin!" she yelled, as Battousai re-sheathed his sword.

"Fool!" Kenshin took a step backwards and resisted the urge to draw the sakabatou, as Kaoru ran forwards and fell... into his arms. At the other end of the classroom, Saitou wiped the blood from his chin and grunted in frustration.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Kamiya?!" Saitou thrust the nihontou in her direction. "Get out of the way you idiot girl! Else I'll be forced to kill you too!"

"Kaoru," hissed Kenshin between clenched teeth as he held her tight. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?! Do you want to get killed?" Battousai suddenly felt incredibly angry with Kaoru; he was enraged that the girl had put herself in such danger. "I told you to stay out of this!"

"But Kenshin," Kaoru looked up at him with wide blue eyes. "I'd rather die than have you kill... again."

"You don't understand, do you?" snarled Kenshin as he started to melt under Kaoru's gaze. "This... thing... between me and Saitou; it has been going on for ten years! The only way to end it... once and for all... is to kill that bastard!" Battousai's resolve began to fade as he heard the words leave his mouth; they sounded foolish and stubborn to his own ears. Across the floor, Saitou snorted in disbelief.

"But Kenshin!" Kaoru lowered her voice so that only Kenshin could hear her. She could sense it now; that she was winning with him. "The Bakumatsu ended ten years ago. I didn't expect you of all people to want to continue it into this era of peace."

Strong words, to someone like Kenshin, and Kaoru of all people knew it. Kaoru decided to press home her advantage.

"Saitou... to him, killing people doesn't matter, but Kenshin, I don't want to see you destroyed... because of this!"

"Kamiya!" growled Saitou suddenly in impatience. "Get out of the way! You will not stop me from finishing this! I have waited too long for it!" Saitou tensed, preparing to strike. "Move out of the way, or I will kill you too!"

Kaoru shrieked suddenly as Kenshin's strong arm pulled her to the side. Battousai twisted violently and brought the sakabatou up to meet Saitou's thrust. With Kaoru in one arm and his sword in the other hand, Kenshin wasn't having such an easy time of it. Their blades locked, Kenshin glared up at Saitou.
"You would still attack me, you dog?" he demanded coldly. "Even with the girl in my arms?"

"Get her out of the way then. She's interfering."

"No, Kenshin!" Kaoru gripped his arm even tighter. "Don't fight him!"
"Shut up Kamiya!" hissed Saitou angrily. He pushed forward, causing Kenshin to clench his teeth. One might say that Battousai was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Kenshin's thoughts were flying. What was he going to do? On one arm Kaoru was clinging to him like a leech, hanging on for dear life, while his sword arm was occupied with blocking Saitou's relentless attacks.

On the sidelines, Sano was shaking his head in disbelief.

"Jou-chan." he tsked, in an expression of wonder.

Just when you think that Kenshin's finally gonna lose it, he thought, she goes and jumps into the middle of a fight like that... Jou-chan might not be able to cook to save her life, but she sure packs the punches when it counts... Takes either a nutcase or someone incredibly brave to do a thing like that...

Sano was sure that he wouldn't jump into Battousai's arms in the middle of a fight; not even for all the tuna toro in Tokyo bay. Sano clenched his fists suddenly as Saitou pulled back suddenly, catching Kenshin off balance. There was a gasp from the class as the nihontou suddenly slashed at Kenshin, who avoided the blade by a hair's width, dragging Kaoru behind him.

"Kensh-" Kaoru was cut short as Kenshin suddenly dodged another of Saitou's attacks. Suddenly, she found herself being pulled across the classroom in an awkward dance, as Kenshin swiftly evaded Saitou's blade.

"Gyah!" shrieked Tamataro in fright as Kenshin spun Kaoru out of the nihontou's path, just as the sword sliced through the ribbon in her hair. "He's... he's gonna kill her too! But... he's the police! He's not meant to harm innocent civilians!"

"Saitou!" snapped Kenshin suddenly. Kaoru noticed that his breathing was slightly more laboured. "Stop this until I get the girl out of the way."

"I warned her to move," replied the policeman, with eyes only for Battousai. "I told her to get out of the way!"

Kenshin nodded, as if seeing the sense in Saitou's words. "Let go of me, Kaoru," he muttered, pushing the girl away gently. "Let go!"

"No!" cried Kaoru stubbornly. Battousai narrowed his amber eyes.

"Kaoru, let go." There was steel in his tone; a dangerous warning which Kaoru noticed, but chose to ignore.


Kenshin was cut off suddenly, as Kaoru pulled him down into an unexpected... kiss?

Saitou and the rest of the class gaped helplessly as the apparently mad young woman flung her arms around Battousai's neck.

What am I doing?! Kaoru had surprised even herself. Kenshin did not seem to be responding. Perhaps he was too shocked? Or maybe he was...

Any notions that Kaoru had that Kenshin maybe didn't want the kiss were dispelled as Battousai suddenly locked his arm around the girl's waist and responded in kind; passionately; savagely.

"Dude," Shinji's classmate elbowed him in the ribs. "Are they sucking each other's faces off or what?! That's just disgusting!"

"Actually," Shinji had to disagree. "I find it sort-of romantic."

"Uhh... yeah." The other boy was too weirded out to find any romance in that kiss whatsoever. "If you find a strange but beautiful girl kissing a vicious assassin-turned-teacher attractive..."

"Cynic." Shinji shook his head in disgust. "What ever happened to 'true love'?"

At the front of the classroom, both Kenshin and Kaoru were oblivious to the attention that they had attracted.
"Kaoru!" gasped Battousai as he pushed the girl back and started to tear at her kimono, consumed with a sudden frantic desire. "Kao-"

Unfortunately for him, Kaoru all of a sudden happened to come to her senses. With a jolt, her eyes snapped open and the flat of her palm was heading straight for Kenshin's cheek.

"Kenshin no hentai!" she exclaimed in shock. Had she just... done... that... kiss... no, surely!

All of a sudden, the class became aware of the absolute silence as Kenshin stopped and stared at Kaoru. There was a large red handprint on his cheek where she had hit him. Kaoru gulped as Kenshin looked at her intently, his yellow gaze boring into her.

Oh no... have I gone too far? Have I...?

Kaoru's heart rose to her mouth as Kenshin closed his eyes.

Uh oh... he must be angry now... he...

Kaoru shrank back slightly, just as Kenshin opened his mouth to say...


Kaoru blinked in surprise. "Oro?" she repeated, not quite believing her ears.

"Oro," replied Kenshin softly, as his eyes began to lose some of their amber hue.

"Kenshin!" Kaoru could not believe it. "Kenshin!" she repeated, and bent down to squeeze the breath out of her rurouni. "You're all right!"
At the other end of the classroom, Saitou narrowed his eyes in anger. "Kamiya!" he barked. "What have you done! I could kill you for this!!!"

"You should be thanking her, Saitou." Kenshin could not resist a last stab at the former Shinsengumi. "She has saved your life."

"Fight me, you bastard! Finish this!" Saitou was incredulous. That little slip of a girl... How had she been able to rein in Battousai's temper like that?

Kenshin shook his head in quiet refusal. "The Bakumatsu is over, Saitou. I will no longer fight you."

"You weren't so determined not to fight just a minute ago," sneered the policeman. "It is as they say. Once a hitokiri, always a hitokiri."

"No." Kenshin shook his head. His eyes now held only a few traces of amber. "As long as I care for people like Kaoru-dono, I will not kill. The fight is over, Saitou." Kenshin's tone was stubborn.

"Bah." Saitou finally reluctantly sheathed his nihontou, a gesture of defeat. He glanced once more at Kaoru.

"I will not forget this, Kamiya," he growled, and then strode out of the classroom, leaving a stunned Ueno and Tamataro gaping down the hallway after him.

"Hey Shinji." The boy's classmate once again elbowed him the ribs. "That... has to be one of the strangest fights that I've ever seen."

A small gust of wind blew in through an open window, scattering sheets of paper across the classroom floor. Another unsteady desk creaked and fell with a clatter. The class was silent.

Uh oh, thought Eikichi unsurely. What's going to happen now? Himura's probably going to be angry with me... for trying to interfere... But Miss Kaoru will take care of him... won't she?

Kenshin looked at Kaoru with a silent apology in his violet eyes as he sheathed the sakabatou with a soft click. Sano could not help but chuckle a little at the shocked looks upon everyone's faces.
"I warned you brats, didn't I?" The class seemed to shrink back slightly as 'Zanza' pointed an accusing finger at them. "Hope that teaches all you little bastards a lesson!"

"Zanz... I mean Sano..." Eikichi and Ryoko stepped forward from their position in the doorway. Behind them, Tamataro and Ueno were still cowering, looking fearfully at Kenshin, who was still staring at Kaoru. To say that the rurouni felt shocked would be a bit of an understatement. After all, the girl had just dragged him into a passionate kiss.

"Sano," continued Eikichi nervously. "I... I'm sorry... for all the trouble that... I've caused."

Sano shook his head and glared at Eikichi, making the younger boy slightly nervous.

"It's not me that you should be apologising to, Eikichi," said Sano smugly. He glanced over to where Kenshin stood and gave his friend a wink.

"Uhm... yes." Eikichi could still not get over his initial fear; the fear that he had experienced when he had first stared up into Kenshin's amber eyes. Shaking slightly, he turned to face his teacher.

"Uhm... Hi... Himura.... sama," he began, a little unsure of what to say. "I... uh... I just wanted to apologise for the way that I acted towards you... I mean... I just..."

"Eikichi." Kenshin held up a hand, halting the younger man's speech. "Please do not apologise to me until you want to do so of your own will. I will not accept an apology which is offered out of fear." For of course, Kenshin could sense that Eikichi was afraid of him. He could see that the youth was trying very hard to conceal his trepidation.

"But..." Eikichi trailed off, as he realised that Himura was right. He did feel truly sorry, but only because Kenshin scared the wits out of him. Eikichi wondered how he would feel if Kenshin had been just another weak, easily broken teacher. Perhaps he would be looking forward to driving the next one nuts already. As it was, Eikichi wasn't sure if he could ever do such a thing again. He was sure that the memory of Himura's horrible piercing yellow eyes would haunt him for a long time yet. Come to think of it, it seemed that Himura's eyes were once again a deep shade of amethyst.

That's so weird, thought Eikichi, as he saw Kenshin look at Miss Kaoru with something akin to affection in his gaze. It's almost as if he's two different people... but each half is still Himura... I don't get it.

Kenshin turned around to Ueno and Tamataro, who had both managed to stand up straight and fix their dishevelled clothes somewhat. To their surprise, the substitute teacher bowed in apology.

"Sessha is sorry for any damage that sessha has caused," said Kenshin. "I will repay you for the damage...."

"No, no, no!" Tamataro held his hands up in protest. "You will do no such thing! I'd be happy if you just lef.... ehem, I mean, if you didn't worry about it, Himura-san." Tamataro would almost be willing to believe that Kenshin was simply a nice guy - judging from that apologetic tone - that is, if he hadn't seen him beat the splinters out of a horde of unfortunate oak desks, and Tokyo's resident evil cop.

"Are you sure?" Kenshin looked quite concerned. "That is expensive school property that has been damaged. I know that you don't get a lot of funding from the government, and I am very sorry for..."

"I said, don't worry!" repeated Tamataro anxiously. "You've done quite enough dama... I mean, it's no big deal. "We were going to get new furniture in next week, anyway, ehehe."

"I... see." Kenshin did not quite believe the director, but the man had been quite insistent, so he decided to let the matter slide. Besides, as it was, they could hardly afford to repair the dojo, let alone pay to replace twenty or so solid oak school desks.

"About the job..." Kenshin began, just as Ueno looked up in alarm. "For how much longer will you be requiring sessha to teach?"
"Oh! Hahaha!" Ueno chuckled mirthlessly and slapped Tamataro on the back. "We just found a permanent replacement, didn't we, Tamataro?"
"Uh... yes!" replied the director after a brief pause; the time that he had taken to process the fact that Ueno was in fact lying to Kenshin. "Why... he's starting tomorrow! We will have no need of your services any longer, Himura-san, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the effort that you have put into making these students better people!"
Kenshin raised an eyebrow, not buying a word of what Tamataro and Ueno said. For their sake, however, he decided to play along.
"Well, sessha is glad to have been of some..." Kenshin eyed the damage surrounding him quite warily, "... help," he finished, trying very hard to keep the irony out of his voice.

"Oh thankyou thankyou!" Both Ueno and Tamataro bowed in unison. "We are very grateful for your services here to the school! Now if you would just..."

"Hey dude!" At the back of the classroom, Shinji's friend elbowed the boy in the ribs. "See that? Ueno-sensei and that other guy are trying to get Himura out of here once and for all! It seems that he freaked them out just as much as he scared us!"

"Scared?" Shinji shook his head as he saw Himura look at the two teachers apologetically. "I don't think that Himura is really that bad... it's just when he gets... weird like that... angry... that he might scare people, but then again, everyone gets angry at some point."

"Yeah, whatever you say," replied the classmate sceptically. That Shinji kid got some weird ideas into his head sometimes. Himura... not that bad? No, a psychopath is a psychopath, no matter how nice he or she might seem.

"Hey!" He elbowed Shinji in the ribs once again. He had noticed Sano walk over to Kaoru. The two had suddenly glared at each other and traded a few words of argument before breaking out in laughter. "What's Zanza doing laughing with that girl like that? Isn't she Battousai's woman?"

"Honestly, you read too much into things," sighed Shinji in exasperation. The student then suddenly made a fist and punched his classmate in the gut. The other kid fell to the floor coughing and spluttering.
"Hey!" protested the boy as he dragged himself to his feet. "What the hell was that for?!"

"I'm sick of being elbowed in the ribs all the time." Shinji's eyes had taken on a dangerous glint. "It hurts, you know!"

"Errr..." The classmate wisely decided to remain silent. Was it just his imagination, or was there a hint of amber in Shinji's black eyes? Shinji's attention was soon diverted however, as he noticed Kenshin, Kaoru and Sano being hustled out of the room by the two anxious teachers Ueno and Tamataro. Just as Kenshin was about to step out of the smashed doorway, he turned to the nervous class who were still mostly huddled in the corner like sheep.

"Goodbye, class 7-D," said Kenshin. "I hope that you will behave well for your next teacher."

And then he was gone, walking down the hallway as class 7-D breathed a great sigh of relief, and began to chatter noisily. Several students formed a crowd around Eikichi, demanding to know who the hell that raven-haired girl was, and where he and Ryoko had gone. After all, gossip was a staple part of the average student's mental diet.

"SILENCE!!!" barked Ueno suddenly, as he re-entered the room and surveyed the damage. His anger was mounting. After all, this was his school. The students - perhaps because the had been unnerved by the day's events, or perhaps because they were wary of the strange edginess in Ueno's tone - all fell silent.

"I hope," said the short man, "that you are now all aware of what happens.... if you push one too many a teacher over the edge. I have not yet found a replacement teacher for you, but I can tell you this. If I hear one single incident of bad behaviour for the ever again, then I don't care if the whole school is destroyed, but I will be calling on Himura again to sort you brats out. Am I clear?!"

Twenty-or-so students gulped. They would behave from now on. Oh, how they would behave.

"Yes sir!" shouted all of the students. Several of them were already beginning to pick up the debris that had been strewn across the classroom during the fight.

"Aaah," sighed Tamataro as both teachers walked out of the classroom, finally feeling that they could leave class 7-D unattended without risking serious damage to school property. "How nice it is to finally get some proper discipline at the school, right Ueno?"

Sano laughed as both Kaoru and Kenshin started to touch hands and then pulled away, unsure of how to behave.

"You two really are idiots sometimes, you know."

"Oro?" Kenshin looked up in surprise. "Idiots? Why do you say that, Sano?"

"Well, from the way that you two were acting back there in that classroom, I would say that a certain two people wanted to... mmm..." Sano made a suggestive gesture with his hands, "if you know what I mean..."

"Sano!" Kaoru slapped the tall man as Kenshin blushed in embarrassment.

"Sessha did not know what he was doing," admitted Kenshin warily, as Sano's eyes twinkled in amusement. "Sessha was... not quite himself," offered Kenshin as an excuse. Kaoru nodded in agreement. "I acted... rashly... out of impulse," she stammered weakly. "I... didn't know what I was doing either."

Sano smirked as his two friends looked at each other nervously.

"Idiots," he muttered under his breath. "Seems to me that both of you knew exactly what you were doing."