Dangos Over Flowers

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"Thank you," Chizuru said, smiling happily. "But it's all right. I have Sumiko-san with me. For me she's like a dependable big sister, but she's so cool and strong that a lot of the men actually call her 'Aniki'."

"Haha! I'd like to meet this Sumiko-san," Sen said, smiling and laughing good-naturedly. She sounded like a real card. Chizuru smiled. She had a feeling Osen-chan and Sumiko-san would get along well.

"Oh, but Osen-chan, how could you know right off the bat that I was a girl?" Chizuru asked.

"Of course I could," Sen said. "We're both girls."

"Oh, yeah..." Chizuru said.

"Chizuru-chan, where were you born?" Sen asked.

"Um, Edo."

"Huh. Any siblings?"


"An only child, huh? The same as me," Sen said, smiling as she took a bite of her dango.

'Come to think of it, it's been a while since I've talked to a girl other than Sumiko-san like this,' Chizuru thought with a small smile.

"People don't speak well of the Shinsengumi in Kyoto, but some of them are good people," Sen said, glancing at Sano again. "He told me, 'She's been down recently, so have a lively talk with her, make her feel better.' "

"Eh? Harada-san did?" Chizuru asked, surprised.

"Ah! I promised to keep it a secret..." Sen said, making a silly but cute face at herself for the slipup. "Well, I'll be going now," she said, standing up.

"Thank you, Osen-chan," Chizuru said, following suit. "It was a lot of fun."

"For me, too," Sen said, smiling. "Next time, let's go somewhere that has delicious manju. You can bring Sumiko-san with you, too, if you'd like."

"Okay!" Chizuru said, smiling.

"And you as well, sir," Sen said, turning to face Sano. "See you!" She bowed goodbye and walked away.

The sun was setting now as Chizuru and Sano made their way back to headquarters.

"Um, Harada-san... Thank you very much," Chizuru said as they walked. "Um, have I been that gloomy?" she asked, blushing slightly out of embarrassment.

"Huh? Oh, jeez. That girl told you, huh?" he asked, smiling wryly. Looks like he got caught after all.

"Sorry," Chizuru said.

"Not at all. But good thing, huh? You look happy that you got to eat some dango," he said brightly.

"Huh!?" Chizuru said. "No, that's not—" Sano smiled as he patted her on the head.

"Well, 'Good fortune comes to those who smile,' right?" he said with a wink.

"Hai!" Chizuru said, smiling brightly.

The next morning, both girls were bright-eyed and busy-tailed.

"Here," Chizuru said cheerfully, handing Inoue-san a full rice bowl. He, Hijikata, and Saito were already present and eating. They were just waiting on the late risers now.

"Thank you," Inoue said, smiling.

"I'm sleepy! Fooood!" Shinpachi said sleepily while Sano yawned as they came in to join them.

"Good morning!" Sumiko greeted them brightly as she and Chizuru smiled.

"Yeah," Both men said, a little surprised by the sudden transformation. They glanced at each other and smiled, silently congratulating the other on a job well done.

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