Play 35: Helpless Feelings

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Souji turned and looked at me, his lips twitching into his usual smile, and then I realized that he knew I was listening in to the conversation the entire time. I stood there for a while, shifting my foot uncomfortably when he chuckled.

"It's all right, come sit down over here." Souji patted the space next to him, and I gulped, suddenly nervous. Nodding, I slowly sat down, avoiding eye contact. There was a deafening silence as I tried to think of something to talk about.

Maybe I should talk about the sky again...I tilted my head back. I swallowed the lump in my throat and fidgeted. "Uh...The—"

"You didn't buy all the crap that doctor was saying, did you?" Souji started, and I flushed red, embarrassed that I was about to say something lame. "C'mon, do I really look like I'm sick?"

I lowered my head and stared into his face intently. When he noticed it, he smiled at me cheekily, and I blushed again. "A-actually, yeah, you do." I coughed awkwardly. "If I stare hard enough, I can tell you're sick."

"You're such a liar." Souji laughed teasingly.

"I'm not!" I shot up from my seat abruptly, before sitting down again. "I'm not a liar." I muttered, trying to convince myself.

His smile widened. "I don't want you to take this seriously, all right? He was just guessing." Souji paused for a moment. "Overreacting." I just shook my head. The symptoms were almost as clear as day, so Souji couldn't sway me. "You wouldn't tell anyone about something that was just a guess, right? If you tell anybody..." He gave me a smirk. "Then I'll probably have to kill you after all."

"It wasn't a guess," I blurted out. "But I wouldn't say a word."

Souji stood up from the bench, and I did too. He turned to face me, and I glanced up, trying to hide my emotions from my face. I wanted to burst into tears, but I knew it wouldn't help. Moreover, I hated crying.

"Thanks."

I nodded to acknowledge it, and felt my heart stopped when I saw him smiling gently. How could he be so calm about this? He was going to die. Anyone would be screaming their lungs out right now, let alone smiling like that. I turned away, feeling worse than ever, and quickly excused myself before my tears came back again.

~~~~~~~~~~~

My previous good mood was gone for a long time, replaced by an overwhelming sense of dread surging in my chest.

Like Matsumoto had mentioned to Souji, he visited the headquarters to check up on the men of the Shinsengumi. He seemed quite contented with the way they were currently leading their lifestyles, and I was a little too—I didn't exactly liked how the dust danced in every inch of the rooms.

"Hey! Guys! Listen up!"

Harada and I glanced up to see a flustered Nagakura hurrying towards us. I frowned, confused as it was rare to see him like this.

"What, you run into some outlaw ronin out there?" Beside me, Harada's previously teasing smile was gone, replaced by a serious scowl.

Nagakura shook his head solemnly. "No, it's way worse than that. I heard that Lord Iemochi's dead!"

Iemochi? That name sure sounded familiar. I racked my brains a little more before I came up with an answer. "Wait, that shogun of Tokugawa Shogunate?" If the history books and my memory weren't wrong, the Shinsengumi had been assigned to guard him before, and he was something like a mascot of the shogunate.

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