Chapter 26

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Previously: Shinpachi and Saito stood before them, covered in blood. Blood that wasn't theirs.

"We barged into the family lodge those rogue samurai barged into, but the head clerk stopped us!" Shinpachi narrated with anger as he wiped the blood off of himself.

After turning up at the gates, Shinpachi and Saito had remained silent until Hijikata and Sannan-san arrived as they were cleaning themselves up.

"He stopped you?" Sannan-san asked, bewildered.

"Yeah," Shinpachi said, the anger in his voice growing. "He kept goin', 'Who ordered you to do this? Go get the local police.'"

Rin clicked her tongue as she leaned against a wooden post with her arms folded as the two vice commanders assessed the situation, an icy look plastered on her face.

At this rate, there was no way the Roshigumi was going to make a name for themselves.

"And that's how you lost those ronin?" Hijikata asked.

"Dammit!" Shinpachi growled as he aggressively threw the white cloth he was using to wipe the blood off himself back into the pail of water. "What are the people of Kyoto thinkin'?! I can't believe they're defending them rogue samurai!"

"We lack any real track record and the imperial nationalist party, especially the Choshu ronin, are said to grease people's fingers," Sannan-san said. He was always the logical voice.

"Tch," Shinpachi clicked his tongue as he wrung the cloth. He was the one who got affected the most by the whole event, even though everyone felt down.

Rin shifted her eyes to study Souji, who sat under the shadow on the elevated wooden step with a grim expression as he watched Saito clean up. Just as she wondered what was running through his mind, he spoke, "For having just drawn someone's blood, you seem rather calm, Hajime-kun." His expression almost made it seem like Souji had caught Saito red-handed in some crime; he had his devious, scheming smile on, but his eyes held no humor.

When Saito didn't reply, a frown settled on Souji's face. He looked up to see Hijikata walk closer to Saito. "Saito, having crossed blades with them, what do you think?" he asked.

Saito respectfully stood up to answer the question as he pulled the sleeves of his temporary white yukata down. "Most of the men were lacking in swill with the sword. But as our numbers are rather limited, I would be worried to think what may happen in the event that they surround us," Saito reported, prompting a new thought process in everyone's head.

Skill vs Number.

"Even so, it would take time and money to enlist new recruits and train them," Hijikata said, deep in thought. After a pause, he said, "For now, never go out alone. Getting yourself killed won't do us any good."

Rin silently agreed with Hijikata. It wasn't a matter to be taken lightly anymore.

"At any rate, there just isn't enough stuff we can do," Shinpachi said with a scowl as he pulled up his black tunic from the water in the washing pail. He paused, then, "Say, what happened to workin' for the Aizu Domain?"

"We shall be sending off an official petition to the Lord of Aizu for persmission to remain in Kyoto shortly," Sannan-san said.

"Any chance they'll give us permission to stay?" Shinpachi asked, borderline desperate.

Rin knew how much this all meant to everyone. Working towards a goal and protecting this country was what everyone lived for.

Take that away and there was no reason for their existence. All their life's hard work would go in vain.

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