Play 36: Heart Of Jealousy

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"Who're you? You know this broad?"

I shook my head to reply the ronin's question and glared, refusing to back down. "Even if I don't, you shouldn't hurt her!"

"Keep your damn nose outta my goddamn business!" The ronin shouted, agitated. He was so pissed off that he was contaminating the area with spits of his saliva.

"I could, if you would stop abusing your authority to hurt others!" I raised my voice, and the ronin's hand tightened around the hilt of his sword. The audience around us yelled in agreement as their confidence rose because of what I just said.

"You son of a bitch...!" The sword was unsheathed, and I automatically placed my hand on mine nervously. Even though Saito had passed me for my skills, I was still not assured as those 'skills' were more or less acting and couldn't be compared to real ones.

While I was still weighing my options, one of the ronin let out a sudden yelp as he collapsed to the floor in pain. I snapped out of it and realized that Saito had saved me. Glancing at the ronin, I wondered for a second if he was dead.

"You needn't worry. I used the back of my sword." Saito read my thoughts, and I nodded. Was I that easy to read? Maybe I had to brush up on my acting skills.

Meanwhile, Saito had commanded the other men to bring the two ronin back to the headquarters for interrogation. He then looked at me, his eyes cold as ever.

"That was reckless. Why didn't you call me?"

"I wanted to, but they were about to hit the girl, so I just..." I trailed off, realizing that it sounded like an excuse.

The girl behind me stepped up to face me, glowering. "The gentleman is right! You were dreadfully reckless! I had the situation quite well in hand."

I blinked. I wasn't expecting this girl—who was elegantly dressed up, so she probably was from a rich family or something—to reprimand me too. Frowning, I wondered if I should retort something back, like 'I didn't deserve this' or 'Stay out of our business' or even 'You clearly didn't had the situation handled well'.

"I..." I let out a sigh of acceptance. "Fine, I'm sorry." I bowed slightly, feeling a little tired to counter something.

The girl's eyebrows shot up, as if recalling something important. "Oh. But you did save me, didn't you now?" She smiled gratefully. "And I haven't yet thanked you! How crude of me. Thank you." I laughed hoarsely, acknowledging her gratitude, and she continued, her eyes almost sparkling in admiration. "I must say, you're awfully courageous! Most people wouldn't dare confront a ronin so!"

"I guess...But Saito-san and the others did the most." Looking away in embarrassment, I muttered under my breath as I thought that I would do the same back in the modern times. Well, maybe it did depend on my mood on how I faced the situations.

The girl stifled a giggle. "Oh, you needn't be so modest." She lowered her eyes, and I flinched a little. Those eyes looked as if they could see through me. "I suspect that this, our meeting here, is providence. Young ladies must watch out for one another here in the city!"

"Huh?" Did she just say 'young ladies'? I looked up at Saito, who had a weird expression on his face which I couldn't read.

After a while, Saito spoke matter-of-factly. "You can't expect to fool everyone. There's no need to worry about it."

"Oh dear. Was that supposed to be a secret? Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it?" The girl's face had a worried scowl. When I shook my head again, her expression turned into a relaxed one. "I'm terribly sorry, but I don't believe I've even asked your name! How terribly boorish of me!"

"This is—" I gestured to Saito, who was quiet this entire time.

"Oh," the girl said, nodding in understanding. "I know who he is. Saito-san, yes? The Shinsengumi is frightfully famous here." She turned to me. "And you are?"

"Y-Yukimura Jun. Nice to meet you." I bowed awkwardly.

"And it is a pleasure to meet you, Jun. You may call me Sen," she replied politely.

"Sen-san?"

The girl giggled again, amused. "Oh goodness, you needn't be so uptight! You look to be about my age, so I see no reason for us not to speak as contemporaries."

"Is Sen okay then...?" I asked hesitantly.

"Yes, I suppose that will do." Her smile was contagious, and I grinned back at her almost shyly. Suddenly she reached out and grasped my hand, her face eager. "We must meet again sometime, Jun." With that, Sen squeezed my hand gently and left, her kimono flapping behind her. I stared at her, slightly jealous of her femininity and elegance alike with Kaoru.

Something struck me in my mind, and I felt my face burning up. Saito glanced at me, wondering what was wrong, and I shook my head, trying to reassure him. I couldn't contain my happiness though—I had made a friend—a female friend who was around my age.

Back in school, I didn't have a chance to make a friend in class due to my busy acting activities. My school was famous for its drama club, so there were several competitions that they were involved in. As such, I was allowed to skip lessons just to participate and practice for the plays, and I didn't know anyone in my class. The members of the drama club were mostly male too, and my fans were a bit too excited for me to step up and ask them to be friends with me. Moreover, it was a little too embarrassing for me to do such a thing.

From that day onwards, I found myself wondering what female friends do while they spent time together. Harada had asked me why I was so spaced out lately, and I just laughed it off as being exhausted. The twins looked at me in wonder, knowing that something good had happened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Matsumoto-san is examining Souji right now."

I jerked up from the tea tray to look at Kondou, my heart racing. Did he know about Souji? I gulped and asked him what the doctor had said.

"He hasn't said anything yet. I hope it's nothing serious." Kondou frowned, his wrinkles frowning with worry.

"I'm sure it's nothing much, really..." I tried to keep a straight face.

Kondou sighed. "If something happened to Souji, I don't know how I'd be able to face her..."

A dark feeling surged in my chest, and I frowned. Somehow, I was reacting to 'her'—who was it? Souji's...girlfriend? I felt more discouraged, and tried to shake it off. For some reason, I remembered how the Byakko twins were teasing me about liking Souji, and I felt my face turned red as my heart beating rapidly. It couldn't be jealousy...right?

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