Clearing the Air

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"Oh, Sumiko-san!" Chizuru said, perking up when the older girl came to help her carry the washed vegetables back inside. "Guess what, Matsumoto-sensei is here!"

"Eh? Really?" Sumiko asked, blinking in surprise. "I knew another doctor was coming, but I never thought it would be him. I should have asked Yamazaki-san for more details... Still, this is good! It'll be nice to see an old friend, and he may know something about Koudou-san," she added with a smile. "We'll have to drop in on him once he's finished with the health inspection."

"Un!" Chizuru agreed, smiling excitedly.

"Matsumoto-sensei, how did the checkups go?" Kondo asked as he entered to room the inspections had been conducted in while the doctor was packing up his medical kit, having just finished with the last man. He glanced up at Kondo and sighed.

"If you add up the sick and wounded, it's almost a third of the troops, isn't it?" Matsumoto replied.

"What's that!?" Kondo exclaimed, taken aback.

"Don't 'What's that!?' me, Kondo-san!" Matsumoto said, standing up to confront the Shinsengumi's Commander. "What have you all been doing!? From sores to loose bowels! Your HQ is an exhibition of illness, I say!"

"An exhibition of illness...?" Kondo asked, startled.

"First, prepare a sick room and carry your ill there. Disinfect all your clothes! Get this headquarters cleaned now!" Matsumoto ordered sternly. "And in the future, listen to Miyagawa-kun before it gets this bad!" he knew she and Chizuru were there, and there was no way she would have let it get this far without at least warning the men first. Did these fools not take her advice simply because she was a woman? She might be a bit eccentric at times, but she was an excellent doctor who had even taught Koudou and himself a thing or two.

"Today, we shall spend the day performing a major cleaning!" Kondo announced once he and Hijikata had gathered all the men once again.

"Eh!?" they all exclaimed in dismay, grumbling amongst themselves.

"It's about damn time!" Sumiko said, nodding in approval. Thank goodness for Matsumoto-sensei. Chizuru smiled and laughed a little at the stark contrast in reactions.

The rest of the day was devoted to cleaning out the headquarters until it was spotless. Sumiko and Chizuru helped with this while Matsumoto-sensei tended to his patients in the sick room. Everyone was pitching in. Quite frankly, the amount of rubbish and refuse they ended up sweeping out and having to dispose of was staggering. Still, they were managing to make progress in the momentous task of cleaning out the huge temple surprisingly fast with everyone working together. Chizuru and Sumiko had just finished putting away some of the plates they had washed when they happened upon Heisuke. He was sitting by himself in the shade of the building, looking kind of despondent.

"Heisuke-kun," Sumiko said getting his attention. He glanced up to find both girls staring at him with concern.

"Are you not feeling well, yet?" Chizuru asked, remembering how he had said he was feeling sick before, when the Shogun came to the capital. Sumiko raised an eyebrow and stared knowingly at him. He could tell she knew he had been faking it before, so he might as well fess up.

"Eh? Uh, nah, the truth is I never felt bad," Heisuke admitted a bit hesitantly before looking back down. "I just... didn't wanna protect the Shogun."

"Eh?" Chizuru said, surprised.

"I see. I thought as much," Sumiko said, sitting down beside him. "Wanna talk about it? It's obviously troubling you." Heisuke glanced between her and Chizuru. He couldn't talk to the others about this, but maybe they would understand.

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