Opposing Blades

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"I'll put your tea here," Sumiko said, setting Hijikata's cup down beside his tray for him.

"Yeah. Sorry," Hijikata said as he picked up his bowl of rice to begin eating. Sumiko smiled slightly and looked away before she started to blush.

"Um, where's San'nan-san?" Chizuru asked as he held the tea tray with his cup still on it, glancing around the room. They had already been warned that Shinpachi and Kondo wouldn't be eating with them that evening, since Kondo had gone to Edo, but they had assumed San'nan would still be there since nothing had been mentioned about him.

"It looks like he's doing a little investigating," Okita said.

"Is that so? Then, I guess tea would be better once he's gotten back," Sumiko said.

"We made too much," Chizuru said regretfully.

"Just leave it there," Hijikata said. "Someone will drink it later."

"Oh, okay," Chizuru said, perking up. Sumiko smiled.

"It's salty," Saito abruptly.

"Huh?" Sumiko said as they glanced at him. For a moment they had almost thought he was talking about the tea, but he was staring at the seaweed he was holding up in his chopsticks.

"Whoa! This is terrible!" Sano exclaimed after tasting his own. "Souji, you made this, right!?"

"You don't have to say it like that!" Okita said with an annoyed sigh. "Anyway, I'm the one who boiled the greens and flavored them with soy sauce. I don't think it tastes nasty or anything..." he said, calmly taking a bite of it, while Saito stood up, holding the small dish of salty greens.

"I'm going to rinse this off," Saito stated coolly. "Too much sodium isn't good for one's health."

"Ah, that's true. You're more likely to have high blood pressure," Sumiko said as he left. Sano glanced between his nasty veggies and the door.

"Me, too," he said, getting up to follow Saito.

"Heh?" Chizuru said when even Hijikata got up quietly and left with his veggie dish, closing the door behind them. Okita stared after them for a moment before putting down his chopsticks.

"Well, I guess I'll rinse this off a bit, too," he decided, heading out the door at a quick pace. Chizuru stared after them in silence for a moment, stunned. Each and every one of them had just got up and left...

"Pfft!" Sumiko laughed. Even Okita had given up. It tasted that bad, huh? "Come on, Chizuru, we should probably go rinse ours off, too."

"Are you going to see San'nan-san?" Okita asked Sumiko when he spotted her heading for the deputy-commander's room with a tray of rice balls, water, and a packet of medicine.

"Yeah. I can see a light in his room, so he must be back, right? It seems like he's been trying to avoid me recently, so I figured it's about time I give him a check up. Even if he's doing something important, he shouldn't skip meals. He'll make himself sick," she said.

"Is that why you're bringing him medicine?" Okita asked.

"He told me that sometimes he still feels pain in his left arm," she replied solemnly. "This is just a weak painkiller to help dull it in case it's acting up again."

"I'll take it to him," Okita offered, surprising her a bit. "I've brought my own medicine to share with him," he said, smirking, as he held up a jar of sake. Sumiko smiled.

"You're a sly one, aren't you? Yeah, I think that's a good idea," she agreed, handing over the tray. "Too much sake is bad for the body, but a cup or two every now and then with a friend is good for the soul."

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