The Dance of Snow

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Kazama Chikage was smoking his kiseru and lounging languidly in the open window of his room while watching the snow fall gently on the capital from the pale morning sky.

"Snow covers the whole street," he remarked, smiling slightly to himself at the sight. "Humans are foolish creatures, but watching the snow fall on the city of Kyoto is not bad."

"Kazama, are you listening to me?" Amagiri asked as he stared at the younger oni in his charge. If he were capable of catching a cold, Amagiri would have scolded him for sitting out in the cold air with only that thin kimono on and nothing covering his legs. Kazama sighed, hanging his head slightly.

"Not really. Your voice is annoying," he replied frankly. All Amagiri ever did was nag. "Remember to keep an eye on the safety confirmation of Emperor Koumei," he ordered calmly, proving that he had been listening to some extent.

"What do you plan to do next, then?" Amagiri asked. Kazama raised his head and looked out the window. "I know that recently you haven't been showing much concern for the feudatories' actions."

"We must repay the debt of gratitude owed to Satsuma by our ancestors," Kazama said as he watched a cuckoo bird flit around the bare branches of the tree outside while it sang. "However, Satsuma has joined forces with Choshu. Soon the reign of the of the Bakufu will end. Satsuma threw itself into the power struggle on court and rose with power, ultimately for the purpose of overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate." The cuckoo flapped its wings and flew away with a shriek, sending some of the snow that had settled on the branches falling to the ground. "We Oni have no obligation to support them to that extent," he said firmly as he watched the bird disappear into the pale winter sky as it flew through the drifting snow.

"You're right," Amagiri said calmly, closing his eyes. "But in present terms, shouldn't we Oni be undertaking the task Satsuma entrusted to us?"

"Hmph," Kazama smirked slightly. "Suppose the snow stops tomorrow? Then we shall see how that female Oni's livelihood in the Village of Yase is."

"Understood."

"The snow falls, like dancing flower petals, eh?" Kazama said as he gazed up into the pale, ice-blue sky and held a hand out to catch a snowflake. It was the same color as that komainu's kimono the previous evening, when he had watched her dance about while battling her opponents.


Sumiko and Chizuru had just finished getting dressed for the day when a familiar voice called out to them from outside their room.

"Hey, Chizuru! Sumiko! You awake yet?" Heisuke asked.

"Heisuke-kun?" Chizuru said.

"What is it?" Sumiko called out as she crossed the room to open the door. "Isn't too early for you to be this..."

"Wow!" Chizuru gasped in amazement as both girls stared out at the beautiful, white winter wonderland that their courtyard had become overnight.

"Look! Isn't it awesome?" Heisuke said proudly as he stood out in the middle of it all, waiting for them. "Hurry up and come out!"

"Sure!" the two girls said excitedly, smiling as they ran out to join him for some fun in the snow.

"Hm?" Sano said as he and Shinpachi came over, attracted by the sound of their laughter. Chizuru and Heisuke were having fun stomping around in the snow, making the first footprints, while Sumiko was lying on her back, making a snow angel. "You guys sure are energetic," he commented with a smile.

"Yup!" Sumiko said, grinning like a kid, as she hopped up and brushed herself off. She loved playing in the snow.

"Good morning!" Chizuru greeted them cheerfully.

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