The Snowflake Capital

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Almost two years later:
Late December, 1863
Kyoto, Japan

"Keep going, Chizuru!" Sumiko shouted encouragingly as she and her younger friend ran through the streets of the capital, trying to lose the two men chasing them. Chizuru nodded, panting, as she ran. They could see their breath as the snow fell around them. It reminded Sumiko of the night she had first found herself in the past. Looking back now, that moment went she rushed out into the street roughly two years ago had really changed her destiny.

"Hold it, kids!" one of the men shouted, reminding her that this was no time to reminisce.

"This way!" Sumiko said, grabbing Chizuru by the hand, as she sharply turned the corner and ran into another alley, hoping to throw them off. She wished the snow was coming down faster to help cover their tracks. "Hide behind this barrel. I'll be right back."

"Sumiko-san!" Chizuru said worriedly, grasping the sleeve of her haori.

"Don't worry," Sumiko said, smiling reassuringly at her. "I'm just going to erase our tracks to confuse them for a while." Chizuru hesitantly let go, and Sumiko quickly removed her haori and used it to smooth out the snow from where they had turned while she backed up to hide behind the barrel with Chizuru. She shivered and put the cold haori back on. She had finished without a moment to spare.

"Damn!" the younger of the two men cursed when they reached the corner and saw the tracks ended. "Where did they go?" he asked, glancing around.

"Those rats are fast," the older man commented, also looking around.

"Stop making excuses, find them!"

The two girls remained hidden as they listened carefully to the sound of the snow crunching beneath their pursuers' feet. Apparently they had decided to split up, because one set of footsteps sounded like it was going further away, while the other sounded like it was coming closer. Good. It would be easier to take down one than two. Sumiko readjusted her grip on her umbrella, getting ready, as the footsteps drew closer. She really wished she had been able to afford her own sword. There was the sound of a sword being drawn from its sheath. Chizuru's hand hovered over the hilt of her kodachi as the younger man's shadow loomed into view. Any moment now...

SLASH!

"Waagh!" they heard the older man cry out.

"Yoichi!" the younger man shouted in alarm and rushed off to the aid of the other man. "W-Who are you—Aaaah!!"

"Gyahahahaha!" Shrill, maniacal laughter echoed through the night as Chizuru and Sumiko exchanged confused and frightened glances.

"What?" Chizuru whispered, stunned, as they leaned out just far enough to take a peek at what was happening. The two men who had been chasing them were struggling to fend off attacks from two white-haired samurai. In matching haoris. Sumiko's eyes widened. She recognized their uniforms out of history. They were Shinsengumi! But something was wrong. There was a crazed, bloodthirsty look in their eyes.

Chizuru gasped when the younger man's opponent bit his blade and shattered it with his teeth. This was insane. That shouldn't be possible...!

The man cursed and threw the broken katana away, drawing his short sword, just in time to block the next attack as Yoichi was cut down.

"Gyahahahah!"

"What the—!?" The young man gritted his teeth and managed to push his opponent back, striking him in the shoulder. The crazed Shinsengumi member just let out another shrill laugh after seeing the blood and continued on like it was nothing, even though it was deep wound. "Wh-What's with these guys!?" Sumiko quickly pushed Chizuru back behind the barrel and covered her mouth so she wouldn't scream as the insane samurai slashed the young man's torso and aimed for his head.

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