Dust to Dust

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"The age of a new breed of oni... Sensei really said that?" Sumiko asked, frowning, as she furrowed her brow with worry once they had heard Shiranui's account of what had happened on the battlefield. She knew he had an axe to grind with humans, but now he was trying to replace oni, too? "I'm starting to feel like I don't know him at all..."

"He has strayed too far from the path. Yukimura Koudou must be dealt with," Amagiri said solemnly.

"I promised Yukimura Chizuru that we would give her time to talk to Koudou," Kazama stated calmly. "She seems to think she can talk him out of it." He was rewarded with a grateful smile from Sumiko.

"Thanks. I appreciate it," she said, bowing her head.

"Hmm? That was awfully nice of you, Kazama," Shiranui commented with a sly smirk before adopting a more serious expression. "But I don't think we can afford to wait too long..."

"ARRRRGHH!"

"!" Their heads all immediately snapped up when the echo of a deep, guttural roar reached their ears.

"The hell?" Shiranui said dubiously.

"That sounded like a rasetsu!" Sumiko said, alarmed.

"Are you sure?" Amagiri asked. She nodded.

"I've heard one like that before. That's what they sound like when they've snapped."

"But what is a rasetsu doing in this castle, I wonder..." Kazama thought aloud to himself as he stood up and headed for the door. The other three quickly got up and followed him, wanting to see what was going on for themselves.

"Would it not be better for you to wait in the room?" Amagiri asked Sumiko as they walked.

"You want me to sit in there all by myself when there could be a monster on the loose?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. "Right now the safest place in this castle is with you all. Although, I think if given the choice between humans and oni, they'll instinctively target the oni..."

"What do you mean?" Shiranui asked. "Why would they do something stupid like that? Humans are obviously the easier prey since they're weaker."

"Maybe, but broken rasetsus aren't exactly in their right minds," she pointed out. "And a while back, a rasetsu got loose at the Shinsengumi headquarters, but instead of attacking those closest to it, it wandered all the way to the room I was staying in with Chizuru, and of the two of us, it went for her first, even though I was slightly closer to it. It went out of its way to try to get to her blood, and the only reason it would do that..."

"Is because her Oni blood is stronger," Amagiri finished. "I see. That is a valid observation."

"And, also—" Sumiko started to add, when another howl wracked the castle.

"AAARGHHH!"

"It sounds like it's moving," Kazama commented.

"It also sounds like it's getting closer," Shiranui said as a shadow rounded the corner. A rasetsu clad in an Imperial Army uniform came charging at them. Kazama immediately drew his sword, while Shiranui raised his gun, ready to strike.

"Don't kill it!" someone ordered from around the corner.

"Diaphragm!" Sumiko shouted quickly as Amagiri stepped forward. Following her suggestion, he took it out with a harsh blow to the diaphragm, knocking it out cold, just as human soldiers came rushing around the corner, led by a man who looked uncannily familiar to Sumiko.

"Ah!" she gasped in realization, pointing a finger at him. "Saigo Takamori!" She'd seen pictures of him in the history books!

"You know Saigo-dono?" Amagiri asked curiously.

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