Play 26: Sanan's Paradise

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A passing image of those blood-soaked bastards filled my mind in a second, replaced by Sanan grinning menacingly like them.

Sanan saw the horror on my face, but didn't drop his smile. "Yes, I see that you understand." His tone was almost pleased. "They were no longer capable of what one might call rational thought, and were little more than bloodthirsty monsters."

I tried to process what he just said as I swallowed in terror. If he was to drink that...I couldn't stop thinking the quiet and gentle Sanan becoming one of those monsters.

He continued as if he didn't see the expression on my face. "If they lose control whenever they see blood, then they're hardly much use in battle, are they? No matter how powerful or immortal they may be..." He trailed off, considering about something. "Koudou-san conducted experiments on the Corps during the development of his treatment."

Experiments? On human beings? It was almost as if I had landed into a science fiction movie. I hoped that it wasn't true at all, but Sanan looked so serious that I believed him right away. Koudou seemed to be not the kind of man Yukimura Chizuru had portrayed him in her diary.

I thought he mistook my stunned silence as not wanting to believe that my 'father' did such a cruel thing, but he didn't acknowledge it. "Unfortunately, when he disappeared, his research was put on hold." Sanan held up the bottle in front of me. "This vial here represents the fruits of my own personal research, based on what he left behind." The crimson liquid inside looked sinister, and I automatically took a step back. "I've diluted it as much as possible."

"But...will you be okay after drinking that?" I asked uncomfortably.

His brows knitted upon hearing my question. "To be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure. I've never tested it on anyone." The smile on his face finally faded, and for a moment he looked quite desperate. "If I take this, my arm will heal. That is, of course, assuming I've mixed it correctly."

"No!" I blurted out. "You can't take the risk! What if something happens to you?" My fists tightened, causing my fingernails to dig into my skin painfully. If something happened to him, everyone in the Shinsengumi would be sad. Everything would change if he wasn't himself or around anymore.

"I have no choice! This is the only way to heal this damned arm!" Sanan exploded, and I flinched. "I'm already useless here. Even the men have begun to speak ill of me behind my back."

I shook my head violently, disagreeing with his words. "That's not true! Everyone's just worried about you!" I wanted to grab on to his sleeve, but was afraid that he would get angry. "Everyone's waiting for the old Sanan-san to be back!"

"There is no life for me as a swordsman. You would ask me to continue in some sort of undeath..." He muttered softly, as if he didn't hear what I just said. Suddenly he turned to me, a peaceful smile plastered on his face. "Let me die as a person as well."

I felt my eyes welling up with tears for some reason. "No! You can't! Everyone will..." My voice cracked much to my embarrassment, and Sanan sighed in exasperation.

"What special concern is it of yours? Leave me be." His smile was kind, but his voice was chilling. I just shook my head quietly, wiping away tears rolling down my cheeks.

What he had said was true though. I was not one of them, as much as I wanted to. I was just an outsider who they needed to find Yukimura Koudou. But I wasn't going to ignore these feelings. I was too embarrassed to say that I cared for the Shinsengumi, but I at least wanted to show them concern. Perhaps it was something like a payback for taking care of me almost a year.

"If I succeed, then my arm will be repaired." Sanan's smile was supposed to reassure me, but more tears came instead. "The odds against success aren't as terrible as you think."

I couldn't speak, so I just kept shaking my head, refusing to listen to him. I knew I should distract him from drinking that dangerous substance in his hand, but I didn't know what to say or do. I knew Sanan was suffering, but was being a samurai, being able to use his arm that worthy of sacrificing his sanity? I didn't want to see anyone around me became that kind of sadistic bloodthirsty monster.

"Well, if you see something scary, just make sure you scream right away, all right?"

I stopped crying and blinked. Souji did say that I had to scream when I saw something terrifying. I should do that, right? Something scary was about to happen. I wiped the tears away with my sleeve and took a shaky breath.

"Souji!"

As soon as I cried out, Sanan tilted his head back, drinking the solution. The empty glass bottle dropped on the floor with a single thud before rolling away as I watched in horror. Nothing happened at first, but after a moment Sanan let out an ear-piercing growl. My legs gave way and I sank on the cold wooden floor.

"No...Sanan-san!" I shrieked as his hair turned white. Sweat began to tickle down his face, and his fingers were digging into his skin, almost drawing blood. He met eye contact with me, and I shuddered involuntarily. Those eyes didn't seem like they belonged to Sanan. It was as if he finally found his prey, but he was holding back, though with a lot of difficulty.

Behind me, the door slid open, and I whipped around to see Souji with a grim expression.

"Okita-kun..." Sanan managed to choke out.

As if we were meeting for a tea session, Souji smiled. "Good evening, Sanan-san." His eyes quickly shifted from the man to the bottle on the floor, several feet away from us. Then he looked at me knowingly, and I felt my breath caught in my throat.

"Thanks for the heads-up, Jun."

I tried to hide my red face as I nodded solemnly. My mind reminded me that it was the third time he thanked me, and I pushed that thought away. It wasn't the time to think about it.

"Okita-kun...I hate to impose, but...If you could...?" Sanan's voice was a painful whisper now. He looked pleading, and I knew what he wanted Souji to do—he wanted the younger man to end his life.

I quickly positioned myself in front of Sanan and spread my arms wide. "No. No way in hell I'm going to let you kill him!"

In response, Souji's hand wrapped around his sword slowly, and he pulled. The sharp blade shone brightly under the moonlight, and I cringed.

"Knock it off. You aren't part of this, so keep your mouth shut."

I allowed the pain to show on my face for a brief second before putting on my 'mask'. "I'm already part of this ever since I stepped into the quarters of the Shinsengumi."

Souji's cold green eyes narrowed into thin slits. "You think you're part of the Shinsengumi? Don't make me laugh." His tone was almost enough to knock me off my feet, but I held on. "If you've already forgotten, then let me remind you. We only keep you alive because you're useful. You are not one of us."

My eye twitched. He was probably right. I was just useful to them, so they treated me well. I was nothing but an outsider from their perspectives. I was just reading too much into how they treated me. What he had just said made me really opened my eyes.

I was really all alone. In this world I didn't belong. I didn't have any allies, be it the Byakko twins or the Shinsengumi. It was at that very moment I really, really wanted to go home. Even if my parents ignored me, I still had Satoshi and Daisuke, not to mention acting in plays. They were the few things I needed, and I didn't realise it until I lost them.

I ducked my head so that Souji couldn't see my watery eyes, and spoke very softly as if I was mumbling a prayer.

"I just want to go home."

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