"We've received a formal request from the Aizu clan," Kondo announced to all assembled troops. "They want us to mobilize and subjugate the Choshu." There was a collective gasp as the men began murmuring excitedly amongst themselves.
"That's awesome!" Sano said.
"Even Aizu has finally acknowledged our actions," Kondo said, looking deeply touched at the thought.
"All right! This is the Shinsengumi's shining moment!" Heisuke cheered, pumping his fist in the air.
"The hell are you talking about? Heisuke, your wounds ain't healed yet, so you gotta stay behind," Shinpachi reminded him.
"Eh!? No way!" Heisuke exclaimed, blanching in extreme disappointment.
"Well, the injured need to rest and stay on standby, right?" Okita said, smirking slightly.
"That applies to you, too, Okita-kun," San'nan said.
"Huh?" Okita said. He glanced accusingly at Sumiko, but she just turned her head away, looking innocent.
"Though you may object, you shall stay here with me," San'nan ordered calmly but firmly. No exceptions. Heisuke and Okita heaved heavy sighs of defeat. Chizuru smiled.
"Sumiko-san. Yukimura-kun," Kondo said, calling the two girls to attention. "Will you accompany us as well?"
"Huh?" Chizuru said.
"Chizuru!?" Heisuke asked.
"I'm not asking either of you to join us on the battlefield. We could use a medic and someone to help with relaying messages and carrying the wounded," Kondo explained.
"We won't force you," Hijikata said. "Decide for yourselves whether or not you want to go." Sumiko bowed her head in thought, but didn't take long to make her decision when she looked at the faces of those around her.
"Of course I'll come. Someone has to look after a bunch of rough guys like you," she said with a slight smirk, earning a few chuckles from the men.
"I..." Chizuru said a bit hesitantly, remembering how she had almost gotten in the way the last time when she rushed into the inn without thinking. She shook her head. No, things would be different this time. "If I can be of any use at all, I'll go, too," she said more determinedly.
"Mm," Kondo said, nodding in approval at the two of them, while Hijikata looked on silently.
"Sumiko! Chizuru! You gotta work enough for us, too!" Heisuke said, referring to himself and Okita.
"Yes, I'll do my best!" Chizuru replied enthusiastically.
"Your going is not a game," San'nan said rather coldly as he looked at both girls. "Ensure that you are not a hindrance to the others."
"Ah! Yes..." Chizuru said, bowing her head, blushing slightly in embarrassment, while Sumiko furrowed her brow slightly. What he said wasn't wrong, but couldn't he have been a little nicer about it?
"All right! Let's do this!" Shinpachi declared boldly, getting to his feet.
"Yeah!" the rest of the men cheered. During the commotion, San'nan silently slipped out of the room alone and started walking along the porch. He paused in his steps for a moment to stare at his left arm. Though the wound had healed, he still couldn't use it the way he wanted. His hand trembled as he tried to make a fist with it.
The Shinsengumi's day to shine had come. Once again, the troops were assembled and in uniform, ready to march out to support the Aizu clan, as formally requested, in order to help drive back the Choshu forces that sought to enter the imperial palace.
YOU ARE READING
Destiny. Fate. Sumiko never really believed in any of it until she met that man. Out of place and out of time, all Sumiko wanted to do was protect her friend Chizuru and help her find her missing father. But now things have gotten complicated...