***
*disclaimer* Now this is just getting cruel...
***
Au-
Up and down, up and down
I will lead them up and down
I am feared in feild and town.
Goblin lead them up and down.
-A Midsummewr Night's Dream/ Shakespeare
***
The Aoiya just got word of Kaoru's disappearance that morning.

Misao stared at the two notes in her hand. It was from one of the Oniwabanshuu contacts in Tokyo.

'Kamiya Kaoru has gone missing in tokyo five days ago.' The first read.

'A young woman matching the missing woman's description has been seen at Hiko Seijuro's Pottery; she claims to be his sister staying with him while her husband is overseas.' the second read.

"It's not like Kaoru to just take off at the drop of a hat." she told Okina. "Kaoru cares about Kenshin more than anything, it would kill her to leave and let Himura worry like that."

The old man nodded absently. "I didn't know Kamiya-san very well, Misao... but she seemed like a young lady who can take care of herself." he said calmly.

Omasu, who was passing out tea, nodded in agreement. "She did, Oka-chan." she said perkily.

"That's Oka-shira!" Misao growled at the unrepentant woman.

"I mean it, oh honored Leader of the Oniwabanshuu." Omasu continued. "None of us really got close to her while she was here except you, but she appeared to be a strong woman who knows what is going on. I'm willing to bet anything that she has a reason for leaving Himura-san in Tokyo."

Okina nodded to Omasu. "Exactly, possibly she has business here that Kenshin-san would... er..." he shrugged. "Complicate."

Misao frowned thoughtfully. "It could have to do with her old dojo in Tokyo." she shrugged. "I'll go ask her, is all."

"As long as you don't see fit to rat on her to Himura." Okina said sternly.

Misao made a face. "Himura is my friend, if he needs to know about Kaoru being here then he will know." then a wickes grin crossed her face. "If he doesn't..."

Omasu and Okina watched Misao bound out of the room and take off to change into her sandals.

"I didn't want to say this while she was here, but..." Omasu started.

"I know." Okina finished. "Kaoru might not be here of her own free will."

***

Misao lost no time strapping on her sandals and leaving for Hiko's pottery.

"I'm going to find out just what's going on." she told herself.

"What is going on?"

Misao started and looked up from where she was wrapping her sandal bands around her calves. "Oh! Aoshi-sama!"

Aoshi was standing in the genkan in the act of removing his trench coat. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

Misao pulled out the missives that she'd just received from Tokyo and their sentinel on the outskirts of town. Aoshi read them slowly and then handed them back. He took his trench coat back off of the hook he'd been about to leave it on.

"I think I know what this is about." he told the younger girl. "I actually expected it sooner."

Misao blinked. "Huh? Wha... what did you expect?"

Aoshi shook his head. "I'll accompany you to the Pottery."

***

Kaoru sighed as she took in the sights and sounds of the Kyoto marketplace. 'Wow, it's so nice to be here when there's no impending doom.' she thought to herself.

Midori pointed out interesting sights as they searched for Hiko, or more specifically the cheapest place to buy quality sake in town.

"That's the temple where Shinnosuke's birth was officially recorded." Midori said cheerfully. "Amefuri is recorded in the Silver Shrine on the other side of the city."

"It's nice to be able to take in the sights." Kaoru commented. "I've been here twice this year already but never anytime for leisure."

"That is an honest shame." Midori commiserated, she tugged on Kaoru's arm. "Look!"

In the crowd before them, Hiko had spotted the two women and was making his way towards them.

"Ladies." He greeted them.

"Midori-san has invited us to her home for supper, we wanted to catch you before you bought the fish." Kaoru explained.

Hiko held up the jug of Sake. "This is all I've bought."

Midori-san opened her mouth to say something, but she was interuppted by a certain, short ninja girl jumping at Kaoru out of no where.

"Found you!" she crowed , wrapping her arms around Kaoru's waist. "You've got a hell of a lot of explaining to do!"

"Is this a friend of yours?" Midori asked cautiously.

"Kenshin sent you, didn't he." Kaoru sighed. "I'm not going back until I'm good and ready."

"Battousai is worried about you." Aoshi said quietly, materializing behind Misao. "Our informants in Tokyo were quite explicit." he paused and looked Hiko over, jusging, measuring... "Hmph, you are Hiko Seijuro... Himura's Sensei?"

Hiko nodded. "Loathe as I am to admit it."

Aoshi shook his head. "I will not say that I approve, although you are undoubtedly an unparralleled fighter. Who arranged all this?"

Kaoru opened her mouth to claim credit, but Hiko beat her to it. "I did."

"Would someone please explain all this?" Midori cried.

No one volunteered to explain and Aoshi continued on. "Then allow me to be the first to give my dis-approval. I believe Kamiya-san's prospects with Himura are more than adequate, there's no need to arrange a marriage to someone else..."

Kaoru looked like she'd swallowed a prickly pear. "A..."

"... marriage?" Midori finished. "Sir, I'm afraid you're mistaken! Kaoru is already married."

"Kaoru!" Misao cried. "How could you?!"

"Not to you." Aoshi thought out loud, gazing at Hiko... who was turning an unsettling shade of red. (Yes, now is the time to start running) "Who are you?" he asked Midori. "A relative of her new husband?"

"No!" Midori stated calmly and ducked behind Kaoru. "Kaoru-san... I think that man is crazy..." she hissed into her new friend's ear.

Misao wasn't done yet though. Kaoru saw the young ninja-girl tense in preparation but couldn't dodge the oncoming slap because Midori was clinging to her back.

CRACK!

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Hiko roared.

Tears shone in Misao's eyes as she backed away from Kaoru. "How dare you do this to Himura."

"I'm not married!" Kaoru cried to her friend.

"But you said..." Midori started.

"I lied!" Kaoru shouted. "Dammit! I'm notr married, not going to BE married, and I'm not doing anything behind Kenshin's back! This has nothing to do with him!" when she finished yelling... she realized not omly was everyone in the group staring at her, everyone in the market was staring at her.

"It's about time you figured that out." Hiko muttered but subsided under Kaoru's death-glare.

"Let's go some where quiet and sort this mess out." Midori suggested and everyone regarded that as the smartest thing said sincer the scene bagan.