Okita stood out in the courtyard, staring up at the cloudy and grey sky. The long night of fighting at Aburanokoji had already given way to morning.
"!" Okita cringed in pain as another fit of violent coughing came over him. He pulled a cloth out of his kimono sleeve to cover his mouth. When he stopped and looked down at the white cloth, it was stained red with blood. He automatically tensed when he heard the sound of footsteps on the porch a few yards back and quickly hid the bloody cloth as he turned to see that it was just Chizuru returning with more water and a fresh cloth so that she and Sumiko could finish cleaning and bandaging Heisuke's wounds. He watched as she set the bucket of water down and opened the door, giving him a view of Heisuke's sleeping face. He looked so peaceful, that if Okita hadn't known Sumiko had spent the whole of twilight operating and struggling to save his life, he would have thought he was just taking a nap. He could see the troubled and somewhat guilt-ridden expression on Sumiko's face while she stared down tiredly at her unconscious patient. She had done everything she could for him, but in the end it hadn't been enough. Chizuru quietly moved the bucket of water into the room and shut the door behind her. San'nan-san would be coming to collect Heisuke soon.
"That damn Rasetsu Unit," Shinpachi cursed. "How long do they plan to keep it going?" He and Sano had been waiting up to hear more news on Heisuke's condition, and then that bombshell had been dropped on them. "It's not like I want Heisuke to die or anything, but... If you go fightin' like crazy, sometimes you're the one who ends up hurt. Still, can't they just let him die here?" he asked, clenching his fist. Heisuke went down fighting for them. Couldn't they just leave him in peace? Sumiko had done all she could to save him, but the damage to his major organs had been worse than she thought. She just couldn't get the internal bleeding to stop...
"I understand how you feel," Sano said as he examined the freshly cleaned and sharpened tip of his spear. "But it was probably Heisuke himself who decided to become a rasetsu," he stated calmly. He doubted Sumiko-san would have allowed them to intervene otherwise. They both knew how she felt about using that medicine on people. She thought its negative aspects too heavily outweighed the positive. She had even gone so far as to call it cruel.
"You agree with that wretched plan, too!?" Shinpachi shouted incredulously.
"No, but I feel I'm in no place to say what's right or wrong," Sano replied.
"This is goin' nowhere!" Shinpachi said as he stomped out of the room, frustrated.
"I'm jealous that you can get angry like that," Sano commented as he watched his friend storm off.
Fushimi Magistrate's Office
A month after the Aburanokoji Incident, both the Satsuma and Choshu Domains prepared for war in earnest and had their forces assemble in Kyoto. To counter this, the Shinsengumi once again went to the Fushimi Magistrate's office and prepared for battle.
That evening, Chizuru and Sumiko were helping out by washing some cups at the well after serving tea.
Sumiko glanced up suddenly when she felt a strange presence approaching them. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw who it was.
"Yo," Heisuke said as he silently approached them from behind.
"!" Chizuru gasped as she jumped to her feet, so startled to hear his voice after not seeing him for a whole month, that she dropped the cup in her hand.
"Ah," they all said as they stared down at the broken teacup. That was coming out of someone's pay. Not that Chizuru and Sumiko actually got paid...
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...