I no longer spoke to the Shinsengumi unless needed.
I spent a large amount of my time mumbling lines from different plays, and spacing out about Satoshi and Daisuke. I felt guilty—I hadn't been thinking about them, and I was quite determined to 'replace' the times I had been talking to the Shinsengumi with recalling the memories of my high school. I had also started to eat dinner in my room, surrounded by the deafening slience and the four walls that seemed to be my prison.
Whenever one of the captains tried to talk about something random, I would block them out with ideas on how I could improve my acting. I also didn't want to think too much about the affairs relating to the Shinsengumi as curious as I was—after all, I was just an outsider. Hijikata would probably behead me once he knew that I knew their secret.
Before I knew it, it was July already. My mood worsened for I assumed that my competition was over, and I would glare at anyone talking to me, even Kondou. I didn't allow guilt to swallow my suspicion about them, but I knew the captains thought that my terrible mood was due to what they said a few months earlier. I didn't want to correct them—let them feel guilty for leaving me out like that, as childish as it sounded.
"What do you want?" I asked coldly on that day Hijikata summoned me to his room. I sat down, making sure that Souji and Heisuke was at least an arm away from me, and glared at the commander. I found myself staring enviously at his silky black hair—the hair that would make most girls jealous.
"You can leave the compound."
I took a minute to understand what he said, and frowned disbelievingly at him. I had long given up on the hope that they would allow me to go outside and search for the Yukimuras, but here Hijikata was, pleasantly surprising me. I tried not to let satisfaction show on my face.
"Are you sure?" I prompted. "You're not afraid that I'll try and run away?"
Hijikata glared at me coldly, daring me to go on, and I shut up. I suspected that he decided on this because I was really moody these days, and wanted to, say, lighten me up. I immediately pushed that hopeful thought away.
"You're going to accompany whoever's on duty. You jump when they jump, and die when they say die. Is that clear?" Hijikata glanced at the two men beside me as if to tell them to take care of me.
I raised my eyebrow at him as Heisuke spoke, the confusion on his face gone. "Ah, I get it now. That's why you pulled us in here, right?" He took Hijikata's silence as consent and said in slight disappointment, "I think it's going to be Souji's turn to patrol though. The 1st division's doing their rounds today, isn't it?" He shot the older man a knowingly look.
Souji nodded. "Yes, Heisuke and the 8th are going out tonight, so I think he has a point. She'll be safer during the afternoon." He winked at me, and I avoided his eyes. I had been acting like he was invisible, and he ignored it, treating me the same way like previously. "Don't forget; if you run, I'll kill you. And if we get jumped by ronin, I'm not sticking around to pull your ass out of the fire, okay?"
Blood was boiling in my veins as I glared at him wordlessly. I didn't know if he was serious, but it was really annoying me. Hijikata seemed to mirror my displeasure as he shot Souji a look.
"No, it's not okay, you idiot. Why the hell do you think I'm sending her with you?" He growled, the demon commander awaken. Souji just snorted, hiding his laugh, and I felt like I should say something.
"I won't run, idiot." I hissed, shooting up from my seat. The fast action caused me to stumble a little, and I blushed as I regained my composure. "I still have things to do here." My mind raced as a few images flashed—the portraits of the Yukimuras, the desire to return home, and the urge to kick Souji at where it hurt the most. I glared down at him, refusing to back down, and soon Souji's face shifted into an uncomfortable smile.
"My apologies. I guess I underestimated you." He sighed in resignation, and I wanted to jump up and down while flashing him the victory sign. "You should realise though, that there's no way to know what could happen out there."
Not taking my eyes away from him, I nodded. "Of course I know. The world's dangerous after all." Unknowingly I sank my fingernails into my palms. "But I still want to go, even if it's with you." I said it in pure disgust, and Hijikata interrupted us.
"The Choshu have been acting up. We don't know what they're up to, but chances are it's bad for us." He frowned, concern in his narrowed eyes. "I'd rather not be sending you out, but..." He trailed off, apparently lost in his own thoughts.
I didn't know anything much about the political affairs in that era, but I did know that the Choshu were enemies with the Shinsengumi because they resented the shogun. I made an understanding noise at the back of my throat.
"We've heard that Koudou was seen around Kyoto. It might not be him, but it matches his description." Hijikata mumbled, and I felt hope raising. Finally I would be out of this hellhole. I hid a smirk as I listened to Hijikata. "Besides, I've kept you locked up for almost half a year. I have to let you out sometime, or you'll never find anything." He looked away, confirming my previous suspicions. He was guilty, but had to think through the decision regarding me in order to cause hindrance to the other Shinsengumi men, and also for my safety.
"Thank you," I said, catching myself just before I sounded sincere. My voice sounded flat and final, and I exited the room to prepare myself for the patrol later.
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