Dangos Over Flowers

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"Hm?" Sumiko said, puzzled when she couldn't find Chizuru anywhere. She had been doing some follow-up checkups on the men Matsumoto-sensei had diagnosed with various illnesses while Chizuru did some sweeping.

"Something wrong?" Shinpachi asked when she saw her looking around.

"Oh, Shinpachi-san. You and Sano-san are back from patrol already?" she asked as he headed over to her. "I was just looking for Chizuru, but I can't seem to find her..."

"Oh, Chizuru?" he said. "Don't worry, Sano took her out to have dangos with this girl called 'Sen'. She's been looking pretty down lately, so he thought talking to another girl for a little while might cheer her up."

"I'm another girl," Sumiko reminded him, chagrined. "But yeah, I get what you mean. I heard about Osen-chan from Chizuru the other day. It'll be good for her to be able to talk and laugh with someone her own age without having to worry about anything for awhile."

"Speaking of which, you seemed to be pretty worried about something yourself..." Shinpachi commented. "Wanna talk about it over some sake?"

"I'm just worried about Koudou-san and Chizuru. There isn't really anything new to talk about there... but I won't say no to some sake," she replied with a wry smile.

"Heh. See, if you were a girl, you'd have at least said something about it being 'too early'," Shinpachi teased.

"Shinpachi-san. You like to live dangerously, don't you?" Sumiko asked, raising her fist.

"Ah! I'm against domestic violence!" he cried, shielding himself.

"What are you two doing?" Hijikata asked sternly. They had better not be slacking off again.

"Nothing. I was just about to beat some sense into Shinpachi-san. That's all," Sumiko replied innocently.

"... Carry on," Hijikata said, walking away.

"Eh!?" Shinpachi exclaimed incredulously. Did he seriously just give her his blessing to beat the crap out of him? Did Hijikata have any idea what sort of hell he had just unleashed? This wasn't going to be like getting hit by a normal woman...! He glanced cautiously back at Sumiko, who had a rather ominous smirk on her face. "Ah, hold on... wait a minute, Sumiko-san—I mean, Sumiko-sama—I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement..."

"I want some inarizushi to go with the sake," she stated boldly. "You have ten minutes."

"She's been hanging out with Okita too much..." Shinpachi mumbled to himself as he turned and made a run for the kitchen. There was no way he'd finish her request in that short amount of time! And to begin with, how did you even make that dish? All he knew was that there was fried tofu added in at some point...!

Sumiko smiled slightly as she watched him scurry away in a panic, and let out a laugh, but her expression became solemn again as she raised her face to look up at the blue summer sky.

'Well, I guess I should try not to think about it or let it bother me so much,' she thought. 'After all, worrying is like praying for stuff you don't want to happen...'

"Chizuru-chan, eat up," Sen said cheerfully when they served their tea and dango. "The dango here is quite delicious." Chizuru smiled and picked one up to try.

"You're right. It's delicious!" Chizuru said.

"Right? I'm glad," Sen said, smiling brightly. "I've been thinking about you since then."


"It must be rough, being a woman in a male troop, I thought," Sen said as they both glanced at Sano, who was acting as Chizuru's chaperone and waiting nearby in the shade of another building, a discrete distance away. "It didn't feel like the first time I'd met you, I couldn't just leave you be. Still, I guess I'm just being nosy," she added with a wink.

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