The next morning, Chizuru woke up to find that Sumiko was still sound asleep. Her normally peaceful sleeping face looked tired and pale. Yamazaki had managed to stop the bleeding, but not before she had lost a terrifying amount of blood. Thankfully, Sumiko's life didn't seem to be in any immediate danger despite the severity of her wound, but it was still unsettling to see the strong girl looking so weak and fragile. Chizuru very quietly sat up in her futon, careful not to wake her sleeping friend, and unwrapped the bandages on her arm to check on her own wound. It didn't hurt anymore, and you could barely even tell the deep cut had ever been there. All that remained now was a thin, pink line of freshly formed skin. She didn't want to wake Sumiko since the older girl obviously still needed to rest in order to recover her strength, so she carefully set about the task of re-bandaging her arm and putting it into a sling to disguise the fact that it had already healed.
"Good morn—" Chizuru started to greet the others, as she walked over to the well to wash her face and clean her teeth for the day with them, when Shinpachi abruptly and angrily yelled:
"Give me a break!" Chizuru paused, startled, but then she quickly realized that he hadn't actually been talking to her. "How could we forgive such selfishness!?" he asked the others, throwing down his towel.
"Right on the heels of yesterday... He sure does move fast, that tanuki," Sano said, referring to Itou.
"Has something happened?" Chizuru asked as she stepped up to join them.
"Itou-san has announced he's leaving the troop," Inoue replied while cleaning his teeth.
"Itou-san?" Chizuru asked.
«« Flashback ««
"A guardian of the imperial tomb?" Kondo asked.
"Indeed," Itou replied calmly as he sat across from Kondo and Hijikata. "Upon departing, I, Itou, shall assume guard of Emperor Koumei's tomb, along with my men, of course."
"But, Itou-san, we can't simply allow you to resign," Kondo said reasonably. Normally such a thing would be unheard of according their group's rules.
"Are you saying I should stay, after that display of just last evening?" Itou asked, knowing he was putting them in a tight spot.
"Yes, well, about that..." Kondo said hesitantly.
"What's more, to think that San'nan-san is alive, after I'd been told he was dead... If I am an officer, what is the meaning of my not having been informed of this?" Itou said pointedly.
"All responsibility for this falls to me," Kondo said solemnly. Any further explanation would require revealing the existence of the Ochimizu.
"It seems other things have been kept secret as well," Itou added slyly, glancing at Hijikata. "When there are secrets among the top leaders, it has an effect on the morale of all."
"Your logic is sound," Hijikata said, glancing up at him. "Put simply, you're saying to split up the group, yes?" he asked, furrowing his brow.
"This isn't 'splitting up' by any stretch," Itou said with a laugh. "It's a constructive division of forces. I'll keep these secrets to myself, just as you'll keep the details of my leave to yourselves, yes?" he asked slyly.
"Well, if you're that adamant about it, it can't be helped," Kondo said somberly. It was a shame this outcome couldn't have been avoided. Hijikata got up and crossed to room, placing his hand on the door.
"You'll have no regrets, will you?" he asked, sliding it open to reveal Heisuke and Saito waiting to leave with Itou.
«« End Flashback ««
YOU ARE READING
Destiny. Fate. Sumiko never really believed in any of it until she met that man. Out of place and out of time, all Sumiko wanted to do was protect her friend Chizuru and help her find her missing father. But now things have gotten complicated...