The Distant Face

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BANG!

Shiranui fired his last round and opened his gun to reload, reaching into his pocket for more bullets. Unfortunately, he only had one left.

"Tch!" He looked around for something else he might be able to use and spotted a wagon that was still loaded with crates of gunpowder. He jumped up and landed beside Sano as he took out another rasetsu with his spear. "Hey, Harada. Whatcha think of me drawing the fakes' attention while you carve a path for your men to escape?"

"But then, you would...!" Sano said, furrowing his brow.

"Don't lump me together with you weak humans," Shiranui said coolly. "I'm not so lame as to let myself get devoured by these failures." He smirked as he let out a war cry and charged for the wagon, aiming his gun at its explosive load.

"Shinpachi! Guys! We're retreating!" Sano shouted to the others.

"Gooooo!" Shiranui shouted as he fired his gun, setting off a chain reaction of explosions as each box set off another, blowing all the rasetsus standing too close sky high.


CLANG! CLASH! SWISH!

Okita and Kaoru were locked in battle, constantly blocking and dodging each others' attacks. Kaoru took another swipe at Okita, but he dodged it with ease, grinning, as he charged forward again, forcing Chizuru's annoying brother further and further away from her and Kondo-san with a series of powerful blows. It was all Kaoru could to block him. Kaoru gritted his teeth and furrowed his brow as he locked swords with Okita again, but Okita wasn't having that, he applied more pressure behind his blade and forced Kaoru's sword aside.

"!" Kaoru gasped in alarm when he was thrown off balance and sent stumbling back. Okita smirked as he let out a war cry and lunged at him with a predatory gleam in his eyes, ready to end him.

THROB.

"Ugh!" A wave of searing pain suddenly wracked Okita's entire body, sending him to his knees as his hair and eye color returned to normal. This latest fit of violent coughing was so bad that he couldn't hold his rasetsu form!

"Didn't I warn you?" Kaoru said as he straightened up, relieved for the reprieve in Okita's fierce attacks. For a second there, he thought he might really die. "The Ochimizu can't heal your tuberculosis," he stated haughtily.

"!" Kondo and Chizuru gasped in alarm as Okita continued to cough, unable to even lift his sword.

"Chizuru, behold," Kaoru said as he walked over to Okita with renewed confidence. "You have to toss aside the weak and kill them, like this!"

"Okita-san!" Chizuru cried, rushing forward as her brother raised his sword high, preparing to strike him down.

"Souji!" Kondo yelled.

"Don't do it!" Chizuru screamed.

STAB!

"Hah!" Chizuru gasped as her eyes widened in shock, along with Kondo's and Okita's. The tip of a sword was protruding from Kaoru's chest. He had been stabbed from behind before he could slay Okita. Kaoru's eye twitched as he stared ahead, wide-eyed. It hurt to move, but he lowered his arm and struggled to turn his head despite the pain so he could see the face of his killer.

"Kazama Chikage..." he groaned, furrowing his brow as he did his best to glare at the oni. With great effort, Kaoru reached up with shaking hands for the blade that was piercing his chest, trying to grab hold of it.

"Losing your pride as an oni and dirtying the Yukimura name is unforgivable," Kazama said sternly, pulling his sword back out of Kaoru's chest, letting the younger oni fall to the ground with a harsh thud. Kaoru trembled and lifted his head off the ground to look up at his sister.

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