The Flower That Blooms In Twilight

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June, 1864

Chizuru panted heavily as she ran with all her might towards the Shikokuya to deliver her message to Hijikata-san. She had to keep going. Yamazaki-san and Sumiko, and everyone else were depending on her. Finally, the backs of the Shinsengumi members in Hijikata's group, who were lying in wait a little ways away from the inn and waiting for the Shogun's representatives to arrive, came into view.

"A message!" she shouted as loud as she could to get their attention.

"Hm?" Hijikata said, turning just in time to see a very out of breath Chizuru run up.

"Yukimura-kun!" Inoue exclaimed as she bent over, trying to catch her breath so she could finish delivering the all important message.

"What are you doing, here?" Sano asked.

"They're at... the Ikedaya!" Chizuru exclaimed in between breaths.

"!" the men said, immediately snapping to attention.



"Ungh!" Sumiko grunted, gritting her teeth, as she pushed back her opponent. "Hah!" she yelled, head-butting him in the chin.

"Ahh!" the man cried out as he stumbled backwards, and she raised her sword to strike. Aaaaah!" he screamed as she struck him with her sword.

"Relax. I've been using the back of my blade, idiot," she told the unconscious man, sweat-dropping. These guys weren't very bright. No wonder so many of them had been sent. They were making up for quality with quantity!

"You should go ahead, Miyagawa-san!" Yamazaki said as he cut down another enemy.

"And let you have all the fun? I don't think so!" Sumiko retorted. No way was she leaving him here on his own, outnumbered. She didn't need his  death on her conscience!



"Ah!" Chizuru gasped when she and the rest of the Shinsengumi arrived at the Ikedaya to find that Kondo's group had already busted down the doors and started fighting.

"Gen-san and the others, secure the area," Hijikata ordered.

"Let's go!" Inoue told his men, leading part of the group away.

"I'll go around the back," Sano said, running off to secure the rear exit.

"Huh?" Chizuru said when something caught her attention, causing her to turn. "Hijikata-san," Hijikata, Saito and the others turned to see what was going on and saw a number of samurai from the Aizu clan marching towards them.

"Now they come," Hijikata said, furrowing his brow in irritation. "Saito, secure the inside. The Shinsengumi's vice-commander will greet our honored guests directly."

"Understood. We're going in!" Saito replied dutifully, leading the rest of the men inside to aid Kondo-san and the others.

SLASH!

Saito drew his blade, cutting down the first opponent unlucky enough to be in their way as they entered the inn.

"Let no one escape. No holding back. Kill all who oppose you!" he ordered his men.

"Thank you for the message," Hijikata told Chizuru after they watched the others disappear into the fray.

"Huh?" Chizuru said, glancing back at him. "No, I didn't do anything..." she said humbly.

"It's thanks to you that we can claim first right," he told her.

"First right?" she asked. Hijikata turned to face the approaching Aizu warriors and stepped forward to meet them.

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