Play 28: The Old Curiosity Patrol

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A few months had passed, and it was now June.

Ever since the incident with Sanan, the Byakko twins had not visited me. I was getting more and more impatience as days went by, and I found myself pacing back and forth whenever I had some free time.

We had moved in to Nishi Hongwanji temple, and every soldier was happy about it, since there were more rooms now. I was rather reluctant to leave the Yagi house, but didn't say anything about it. Anyway, more space meant more pacing for me.

"Sanan-san, here's your food." I handed the tray to the man, who was under the shade of trees. The captains had told me that Sanan would be weaker in sunlight after his transformation, and it seemed that they were right. He looked slightly uncomfortable and pale, sweating a little from the heat.

"Oh, hello. Thank you." Sanan gave me one of his kind smiles, and I found myself heaving a sigh of relief. He looked totally fine now; it had to be because his arm healed thanks to the transformation.

I fanned myself, sliently cursing the hot summer. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel alright. Unfortunately, the heat and the sunlight aren't particularly pleasant for me," Sanan replied. I glanced at the sky, frowning at the sun. It wasn't that bright, actually, but perhaps it was unbearable for him. My eyes drifted to his brown hair, remembering that it was white a few months ago, right after he took that liquid.

Shaking my head, I turned away from him and looked at the sky again. It was blue, with no clouds shading the sun. Even so, it wasn't very bright.

"Sanan-san—" I stopped abruptly when I noticed his hair colour. It was white.

I felt blood draining from my face. I was almost certain that it wasn't my eye playing tricks as his originally hazel eyes were deep crimson red when I blinked.

"Is something the matter? You look as though you've seen a ghost, which I hardly feel is polite." Sanan's hair and eyes were back to normal now. I blinked several times in confusion before laughing it off quickly.

~~~~~~

"You know, it's been a long time ever since we patrolled together."

Heisuke looked at me and smiled. "Oh, yeah, i guess not. Edo had me pretty busy." He paused, his grin widening. "Shin-san and Sano-san didn't bug you while I was gone, did they?"

I returned his smile and shook my head. "No, they were nice. By the way, did you..."

Heisuke's smile faded and he sighed sadly. "Yeah, I stopped by your place in Edo, but..." He trailed off, looking uncomfortable. I guessed he didn't want to see me disappointed, so I tried to smile.

"It's okay. Thank you for the effort anyway." As I looked away, I dropped my smile. What was Yukimura Koudou doing?

Heisuke noticed my disappointment, and patted my shoulder reassuringly. "C'mon, cheer up! Who knows? He might just pop up some day!"

I resisted the urge to mumble, "And god knows when will that day come?" and beamed at the boy beside me.

"Hm. I sort of feel like the town has changed, so have the people..." Heisuke murmured, frowning. I tilted my head curiously at him, about to ask him what he meant when his head jerked up, noticing something. "Hey! Souji! Find anything over there?" He waved, and I froze, my heart almost jumping out of my mouth.

"I think I really need to ask Yuri about this..." I reminded myself aloud. Heisuke glanced at me, his eyebrow raised, and I laughed hoarsely. "I'm just talking to myself."

Souji walked up to us. "Nope. Everything's normal."

"Except for you," I mumbled under my breath. He was on patrol too, much to my dismay. Luckily his route took him through a different part of Kyoto. Souji nodded at me, a sign of acknowledgement, before looking back at Heisuke, snickering.

"Well, normal for now, at least. I'm sure things will pick up once the shogun gets here." He chuckled, glancing at our surroundings.

"Wait, the shogun's coming?" My jaw dropped slightly.

Souji' emerald eyes met mine, and I was sure I was shaking. "Yep. it's got Kondou-san all worked up too." At that, I let out a small giggle, picturing how Kondou might reacted to the good news.

Heisuke muttered something that I couldn't hear, and I edged closer. He snapped back to reality, his cheeks slightly red.

"Heisuke, are you okay?"

He nodded quickly and turned away, scratching his head as if in embarrassment. I sneaked a peek at Souji, wondering if he knew what the younger man was thinking about. Instead of replying me, he began coughing.

"Souji...are you okay?" I felt kind of stupid directing the same question at him, but I felt a little worried. He didn't reply, but continued coughing, his face twisted in pain. When he finally stopped coughing, he didn't answer me, but looked past me. His eyes then narrowed, and I turned around to see what was wrong.

"Whoa whoa! Wadda ya mean, 'no'?"

"Stop it! Let me go!"

"We're patriots, fightin' everyday to kick those damn foreigners out of our country! The least you can do is to give us a little booze!" One of the ronin snickered. "Or maybe even, heh, a little...company...?"

A small group of ronin was surrounding a girl around my age, harassing her about something. I bit my lip, fuming about how they treated her, and stomped up to them within a second.

"Hey!" I swatted the hand around her wrist and glared at the ronin as fiercely as I could. "Can't you see she's not willing to? Leave her alone!"

The ronin rubbed his wrist, slightly baffled at how hard I hit him. "Huh? And who are you, brat?" He raised his hand as if he wanted to punch me aside, and I quickly shut my eyes, bracing for the impact that never came.

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