Play 17: A Midsummer Night's Battle

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I could feel rage literally radiating off my body like waves.

As I sat in the main room, my eyes fixed on Sanan, I folded my arms, trying to let them know that I wasn't pleased with the current situation. I tried my best to swallow my anger, but it always came right back every time Sanan aimed his unpleasant words at Souji and me.

"You don't need to lose your head over it. After all, we arrested a couple of Choshu people." Souji finally broke the uncomfortable silence. I sneaked a peek at his face, but like always, I couldn't read his expression clearly.

"Yeah, at least we confiscated a massive arms cache," I mumbled, and Souji shot me a look. I closed my mouth immediately.

Sanan's eyes narrowed into thin slits. "Not something to lose my head over?" He spat. "My head is right where it belongs, Okita-kun. Perhaps you should inquire after yours. The man claiming to be Keimon Masu was in truth Furutaka Shuntaro, a Choshu spy." His eyebrows were furrowed as he glanced from Souji to me. "I assume you were aware that the Shinsengumi was allowing him to operate in the hope of acquiring enemy intelligence?"

Souji tried to defend himself. "Yes, I was, but we didn't have a choice this time. I had to bring him in." For once, he looked bothered, as if he hated to argue with Sanan.

"Well, it's not like it was a total bust. Like Souji said, they did arrest some guys." Harada decided to speak up for Souji.

"Yeah, but don't you feel bad for Shimada-kun and Yamazaki-kun? They were staking out the place to keep an eye on Furutaka." Heisuke joined in, apparently weakly supporting Sanan. I wanted to ask him to hush a little when Shimada interrupted.

"We appreciate your concern, Toudou-kun, but no one needs to lose any sleep on our account." Shimada Kai bowed a little at Heisuke. "We were getting nowhere with Masu's the last few days anyway. Okita-kun did us a favour." Beside him, Yamazaki Susumu nodded sliently. I thought they two were possibly the nicest guys in the Shinsengumi, and Nagakura seemed to agree with me.

"Man, you two are the definition of stoic and reasonable." He looked over at Souji, almost in disappointment. "On the other hand..."

My vision went blurry out of pure rage. How could they push all the blame to Souji? I was the one burdening him, so I should be the one getting all the lectures. If I weren't so useless, if I weren't such a troublemaker, if I weren't a magnet for trouble...I was so enraged that I felt light-headed.

I felt something snapped at the back of my mind, and suddenly the teacup in front of Sanan exploded into pieces.

Everyone turned their attention to the teacup, surprised that it had just broke without warning. My heart thumping, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.

"It was all my fault. You shouldn't push all the blame to him." I bit my lip, staring at the broken pieces in front of Sanan, who seemed uninjured from the sudden incident. This is weird, I thought to myself. Did it break because...I shook my head so slightly that no one noticed it. This is just pure coincidence. Nothing to worry about. Nothing related to me.

I turned my attention back to Sanan, who looked angry at my attempt to shift the responsibility. "But who was tasked with looking after you?" His glare was enough to shut me up. "The captain of our 1st division can't even keep track of a single charge. Is this the best the Shinsengumi can do?"

I held back myself from screaming into his face about unfairness and injustice when Hijikata, who had been really quiet, opened his mouth. "I told her she could go. They were only following orders." He tried to smile at Sanan, but he ignored it.

"By the way, what did Furutaka say?" Harada frowned.

"They were going to wait for a day when the wind picks up, then set Kyoto on fire and kidnap the emperor while everyone else is losing their shit." Hijikata said that without even blinking, and my throat suddenly felt dry. That was sure a close one.

"Burn down the city?" Nagakura choked out. "Those Choshu guys are crazier than I thought." I agreed, and snorted when he made a rude gesture. Saito, who was also quiet for a while now, pointed out that they shouldn't ignore their plans.

Hijikata nodded. "They're probably meeting tonight. We need to get ready to move out." Saito nodded understandingly as I gawked at the sudden escalation. Already? I gulped. Were they already prepared for battle?

Finally finding some motivation, Nagakura enthusiastically clutched his fist. "I'm getting the chills!" Seeing each man's expression in the room, it was clear that they were actually ready for the confrontation.

"We did get some information on Koudou-san." Hijikata looked over at me as if just realizing that I was here. "Apparently, he visited Masu's with some men from Choshu." The news shocked me—what was that Yukimura doing? I was tempted to ask him about Yukimura Chizuru too, but was against with the idea. Even if I pretended that she was my sister, the lies would eventually pile up and they soon would see through every one of my loopholes.

I tightened my fists, suddenly angry with Yukimura Koudou. What was that idiot doing? Was he trying to get me killed? I peeked at the men of Shinsengumi and shuddered. I wasn't going to get kill because of Yukimura Koudou. If it came down to it, I would sacrifice the Yukimuras, even if I would feel guilty about it later on. I pushed that dark thought away. What I had to do now was to survive and return home, and I would do anything to get my goal.

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