Author's notes:

Well, it's nice to see this series taking off with some good fans (both here and at the forum sites I belong to). Now, these chapters are being balanced with work on 'Pink Gender', so I'll update as often as I can. So anyways, here's Chapter 3!

"Cat-Face"

Chapter 3: The Love-Hate Triangle

"I am Yosho Kumatsu, heir to the Kumatsu family of the Wolf Clan," the ninja said with such confidence and cool. "I am here to slay the Cat Clan and their wretched leader Cat-Face once and for all!"

My friends and I all blinked at this guy dressed in black.

"Um…A friend of yours, cuz?" Amaro asked me. At least he was tactful enough to not say my name, just in case.

"Uh, HELLO, he says he wants to KILL me!" I stomped on his foot, making him flinch.

"You three can just leave," the ninja-guy snorted as he drew a katana from its scabbard on his side, the blade shining with the half-full moonlight. "This is between me and this scoundrel. I have no need to harm innocent bystanders."

"A-…Cat-Face is our friend," Hoshi responded as she took a step in front of me, crossing her arms. "You want to fight him, you go through me."

"And me," Amaro scowled as he stood next to Hoshi.

"And me," Midori humphed as she took her place in making the human shield.

"GUYS…" I whispered. "I know you're all the Circle of Power, but I don't think you're ready to face a full-blown ninja with a dang sword!"

"Relax," Amaro said with such a confident voice. "He's using either Kendo or Gum Do-styled forms of combat. You can tell by the way his feet are spaced and positioned."

"What?" we girls all asked our male friend.

"Trust me, I can take him, or at least disarm his sword for you guys."

"Amaro…" I pleaded.

"Hey, ninja-guy!"

"It's Yosho Kumatsu, you commoner!" the assassin snarled.

"Whatever. How about we settle this fight man to man. I'll even let you use your sword."

"Arrogant twit! If you seek death so much," he leaned back to prepare for his attack. "I'll be happy to send you on your way!" He then thrust his body my cousin, his sword ready to impale his chest, when all in a split second, Amaro pulled out a small scout knife from his ankle-area (yes, he brings that thing with him EVERYWHERE, just like his stupid dog-tags), and parried the sword-attack to the hilt.

"Hm…Nice lunge…Korean style Gum-Do or Japanese style Kendo?" he grinned as he leaned his weight forward and thrust the black-clothed figure back.

"A little of both, actually," Yosho grinned as he leaned forward onto Amaro's blade, pushing my cousin to the ground for a moment. "Nothing personal," he sneered as he brought his sword down in a mighty chop down onto Amaro.

"NO!" Midori screamed…or rather shrieked. With a simple screech of her voice, an ear-piercing cry of high-pitched sounds tore at Yosho, shattering his katana instantly and launching his body a good twenty meters away from us.

We all stared in disbelief at Midori.

"How did…?" I asked her as she fell to her knees in utter shock at her sonic attack.

"Not just for singing, huh?" Hoshi called out as she went over to Amaro to help him up. And, typical of Amaro,

"I could've taken him, you know…" he humphed.

WHAM!! Hoshi smashed her spell book atop of his head.

"You're welcome…" she grumbled as she flipped open her book and began to scan its foreign pages. Before we could ask what she was looking for, our nemesis regained his bearings.

"Not bad…" he coughed as he jumped back up onto his own two feet again. "So this is the fabled 'Circle of Power' the legends tell of?" he then pulled out a tanto from his boot strap and prepared for another attack with a new stance.

"Ah…Shark-Eye School of Martial Arts?" Amaro asked as he brushed off his pants and grabbed his knife once more. "Or is that standard-issue military training for CQC?"

"Japanese-styled CQC tactics. You have a good eye, peasant," Yosho laughed as he and Amaro began to circle one another, darting closer to the other and jumping back a split second later, testing each other. Finally, the two interlocked in combat with their small blades, one hand parrying and the other hand grabbing the opponent's free hand. For almost a solid minute, the two combat-hearty men clashed blades and would take turns throwing the other to the ground, the other dodging the following attack, and then jumping back up to their feet to repeat the attack on the other. But one thing was certain: Amaro was tiring.

"Girl, hurry up with that spell!" I called out to Hoshi.

"I'm trying! Ah! Here we go," she grinned as she began her incantation in Latin. Instantly, flickering red flames of light circled around her in a sort of orbital ring. Then, with a flick of her wrist, Hoshi launched her attack, the flames attaching themselves to Yosho.

"What the-!" he cursed as he tried swatting out the flames on his outfit, eventually dropping to the ground to roll out the fire. My cousin used this to his advantage and pulled the still smoky ninja and engage him in a brutal fist-fight. I just never will get guys…They just seem to love beating the crap out of each other with their fists…Well, nothing lasts forever, for as Amaro was about to make a final punch to the losing Yosho, the said ninja caught my cousin's fist in mid-flight. Using his free hand, the assassin pulled out a smoke ball and broke it onto the ground, fleeing while the rest of us couldn't see a damn thing…

When everything cleared, the four of us were majorly shocked.

"Everyone ok…?" I asked as I looked around for any signs of our assailant, then removed my mask carefully.

"All things considered…" Hoshi breathed as she closed her book.

"I've been worse," Amaro sighed.

"Shaken, but not stirred…" Midori laughed lightly, which the remainder of us followed in soon after. Our walks home weren't easy, that's for sure. We split up and hurried our way back to our houses, keeping a full 360 degrees of watch around ourselves. Luckily for me, it was still hours before curfew was up for me, so I was able to sneak into grandpa's study and carefully place the Mask of the Cat back in its proper location, then headed to the living room to check in with everyone.

"Hey, I'm home," I said casually as I saw the family watching television while Kenichi played his pocket video system. I received a few waves and smiles from the four of them, which meant they didn't suspect a thing, which suited me just fine as I took a bath and went straight to bed.

Sleep wasn't hitting me well that night, however, since the Mask decided to talk with me.

(Ai…)

'Mmmgh…Whaaaa?' I mumbled mentally.

(You have not asked anything of me on this new enemy…)

'Too tired…Explain it to me tomorrow…'

(But it is vital that you-)

"Shaddup!" I cursed, but not enough for anyone in the house to hear (I think), then went back to sweet slumber.

Morning…

Gr…

The walk to school wasn't lonely, since I not only had the Mask with me, but the gang met up with me too.

"Hey, guys," I nodded to them with a serious look, which they returned to me.

"Ai," Hoshi sighed. "About last night…"

"Look, I know already," my face became sullen. "I'm guessing you guys want out of this whole Circle of Power thing, right?"

"Are you kidding?" Midori gawked. "If anything, I want to be a part of this even more now!" she smiled.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, me and Amaro too," Hoshi and my cousin grinned together. "I mean, we each have our strengths and weaknesses, but we did make a good team last night, right?" the three of them looked at one another with smiles then back at me.

"Um…Yeah, I suppose so," I blinked, awed at their courage. "Alright then, so we're still on as the Circle of Power?"

"Yeah!" they cheered as we headed to our classes. As Hoshi and I took our seats, we noticed on our black board the words 'New Student.'

"Hey, Ai," my Goth friend asked me. "Did you hear anything about a new student coming here?"

"Nope," I blinked. "But then again, most students are sort of sudden, right?"

"Yeah, I suppose so," she shrugged as our teacher walked in with a tall boy with long ebony hair in a low ponytail. I had to admit, he was pretty damn hot, but all that changed as our teacher introduced him.

"Class, this is our new student. Introduce yourself, young man," he motioned to the boy.

"Thank you sensei," he lightly bowed to him and then to us before saying, "My name is Yosho Kumatsu. It's a pleasure to meet you all."

I could feel Hoshi and my hearts both flat-line. Even worse was that while the class welcomed him, he made eye-contact with me, then gave a grin that scared me.

"Nice to meet you," the class chorused casually. Hoshi and I simple gulped.

"Now as for your seating arrangement," our sensei looked at the roll call. "Ah yes, the seat next to Ai Nagase will be fine,"

"Sensei!" I stood in protest.

"Is there something wrong, Ms. Nagase?" he eyed me with suspicion.

"Um…Well…Uh, can't he sit by the class president instead? I mean, that way he can get a better experience about our school and…uh…stuff."

Yeah, I was that pathetic right then.

"There are no seats next to Ms. Yuchiza or anywhere within the three rows around her, Ms. Nagase. Mr. Kumatsu will sit by you, and that is final. Oh, and please refrain from future outbursts, Ms. Nagase," he scowled at me.

"Um…Y-Yes, sensei…" I slumped back into my seat, growing paler by the second as my arch-nemesis took his seat by me. 'Don't make eye-contact…Don't make eye-contact…' I thought (and no doubt Hoshi was thinking too).

Class went by and I didn't so much as twitch my head anywhere NEAR Yosho's location…that is, until a piece of paper was placed on my desk from HIS direction. Hesitantly I read the note without the teacher seeing. There were only two sentences on it, and written in very fine hand-writing:

We have much to discuss. Meet me on the school rooftop after class.

-Yosho Kumatsu

"Ai…" Hoshi whispered over my shoulder. "You gonna be ok?"

"I'll…manage…" I gulped as I looked over to Yosho and smiled weakly, to which he returned with a smug grin.

For once in my life, I wanted class to last longer. I didn't exactly have much of a game-plan for this situation, save keeping the Mask with me when I went up to the roof, so as not to be caught off-guard. But, time actually went faster. Just my luck. Yosho went ahead of me when school ended, and Hoshi and I tried to strategize for a bit.

"So, want me to come with you, girl?" she asked. "I can get Amaro and Midori in a few minutes, and we can take his ass on again."

"No…Apparently he doesn't seem to recognize you, and I don't want to destroy the school…ok, well, not for THIS anyways," I sighed. "I have to do this alone."

"You actually don't have to do this at all, when you think about it."

"No, I do. It's my duty as Cat-Face," I groaned. "Just be ready with some bandages when I'm through…" I trudged off to my battle. Every step to the rooftop was like a hike up a near-vertical mountain. I was petrified of facing this character. I mean, yeah, I'm Cat-Face, but after seeing him take a beating from Amaro, Hoshi, and Midori and LIVING…I was wondering if I would make it out of this in at just two pieces.

When I opened the door to the outside, I saw Yosho sitting against the fencing, then turned to look at me with a grand smile.

"So, you're finally here," he said warmly.

"Look, about what happened-" I tried to see if I could talk my way out of this a little, but he cut me off with a hand-gesture.

"Say no more, I understand, Ai," he said in a lofty voice.

"Wait, you do?"

"Of course. I knew who you were from the moment I laid eyes upon you, Ai Nagase," he said with a sort of courageous aura as he came towards me. I was about to run, but he kneeled before me and took my hand into his, then looking up at me with a…loving expression?!

"Ai, I've fallen in love with you. I bid thee, please be my wife."

My thought-processes ceased for a good thirty or so seconds. I didn't know whether to be relieved, or frightened.

"Wh-What?" I gawked at his proposal.

"Please, I ask that you pledge to be my life-partner as I will be yours, forever and ever," he said in an almost theatrical way.

"Wh-Why me?!"

"It's a sixth sense I have, Ai," he stood and looked deep into my eyes. His face was so intense and so…manly? I actually started to blush from this!

"Sixth sense?"

"Yes. I can tell, just by looking at you and the aura you give off that you are a kind but strong person, someone who can be trusted and who will fight for what she believes in. I can see that you are a rare gem amongst the common rough of all other girls, and that you and I were meant to meet. It is destiny, Ai! I beseech you, be my wife once I have slain that foul letch Cat-Face!"

I couldn't speak. It was that bewildering to me. Dammit, why does irony have to be so…um…IRONIC!?

"Uh, well, um," I tried to think of a temporary way out of this. "I, uh, barely know you. And…um…I don't think that Cat-Face is such a bad person-"

"You know not what you speak of, Ai!" Yosho grabbed my shoulders and stared intently at me. "My family of the Wolf Clan was nearly destroyed because of the Cat Clan and their vile leader Cat-Face! We have sworn to avenge our brothers and sisters that were defeated by the Cat Clan in the olden days. Destroying Cat-Face will end our centuries-old war and bring peace to the many warrior-families Cat-Face has wronged! And once I defeat that despicable murderer, I will ascend to my rightful place as leader of the Kumatsu Family, and then you shall be my bride, Ai!" he rejoiced.

"Um…Look, that's ok, but I'm not really-"

"If there is anything you desire, I will provide for you as your husband," he added, as if to sweeten the deal. "If you are in need of any help or any assistance, I will do whatever it takes to see to it that you are given what you need and want. My family is very wealthy, and we only ask that our wives be as strong as they are beautiful. And I don't think there is a better combination than you, Ai," he hugged me then. It was a kind of creepy situation, to be honest. But at least he didn't know I was Cat-Face…but that was kind of a bad thing too I suppose…

"Um…do I have to decide on this now?" I asked hesitantly. I mean, MAYBE I could convince him to leave me if I told him I was Cat-Face…or perhaps get him to bury the hatchet with my family…but then again, that might just make him still want to marry me. Dating him wouldn't be bad, I mean, I admit that he was rather attractive…

"If you need time to accept this proposal, then I shall give you as much time as I can. But once Cat-Face has been slain, I will expect you to be ready be my wife, Ai," he grinned seductively as he planted a warm and soft kiss on my lips.

"Mmm?!" I sputtered as he bowed to me charismatically.

"With this kiss, I have sealed our destinies together, my lady. And so, I must be off. I eagerly await our time together in class tomorrow. Farewell!" Yosho declared triumphantly as he exited the rooftop. I was still frozen in place from the kiss, and eventually slumped down to the ground, dumbstruck by what had just happened.

"Ai! You still alive up here?!" Hoshi rushed out with Amaro and Midori with her, spotting me at once.

"Yeah…Still…Ticking…" I said in a light-headed way.

"What'd he do to you?" Amaro pleaded. "We just passed Yosho, so I think I can grab him and get back at him for attacking you."

"Attack…?" I said, still a little loopy. "He…He…" I flushed as my brain went back into full-swing. "That bastard took my FIRST KISS!" I screamed in ire.

"What?!" my friends gawked.

"The little imbecile doesn't know I'm Cat-Face, and proposed to me for some stupid reason, and thinks we're a couple, and…and…he freakin' kissed me! URRRGGH!" I growled as I kicked the door so hard that I left a good dent in its metal body. I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to get back at Yosho Kumatsu and beat his little rich-boy ass to a pulp. He had no idea who he was dealing with…