Late March, 1868
Saito was inconspicuously tailing San'nan. The deputy-commander... former deputy-commander, had been acting very suspicious as of late, and Hijikata had not forgotten Senhime and Kimigiku's warning that there were rumors their rasetsus were using their night patrols as an excuse to hunt for blood. He was doing well until a cloud passed over the moon, casting a deep shadow on the earth below.
"!" When the shadow lifted, there was no sign of San'nan. Saito hurried forward, looking for any signs that might indicate which direction he could have gone in, but from a glance San'nan appeared to have simply vanished. Before he could take a closer look, a deep, guttural howl bellowed throughout the night.
It was definitely the sound of a rasetsu.
Amagiri calmly stared down the rogue rasetsu he was fighting on the grounds of a local shrine. It would seem Miyagawa Sumiko's theory had been correct. Though he had been sent to find the rasetsu, it had in fact come to him first. He had already crushed one of its arms, but in its frenzied state, it didn't seem to care. It kept its grip on the sword in its other hand and charged at him like a wild boar, swinging its sword.
Amagiri quickly clapped his hands on the sides of the sword, catching it before it could cut him down. The rasetsu continued to grunt and growl as it kept pushing on the sword. Even though it was only using one hand, both of Amagiri's began to tremble as he had to apply more pressure to keep the sword from slipping.
The rasetsu growled as it forced its broken arm to twist back into place and heal, trusting the newly improved hand out to grab Amagiri's throat, squeezing hard. Amagiri didn't flinch.
"Blood! Blood! Give me blood!" it growled with a crazed look in its eyes.
"You are beyond reasoning with," Amagiri observed calmly.
"!" the rasetsu gasped when Amagiri broke the blade of its sword with his bare hands. It immediately dropped the broken sword and leaped back to a safer distance, drawing its short sword for its next attack. It growled again, and with a toothy grin, raised the short sword high in the air.
In one swift stroke, Saito, who had silently come up from behind, severed the arm holding the sword.
The rasetsu cried out in pain and clutched at what was left of its bleeding stump of arm as it fell to its knees. Saito raised his sword again. He was about to deliver the finishing blow, but paused as his eyes widened slightly in shock. The rasetsu's other arm, which was still attached, began turn a dark, ashen color and crumble like sand. Saito watched, stunned, as the effect spread to the rest of its body until even its eyes were affected. A strange, flame-like blue light rose up from the ashes.
"To think I would need your help," Amagiri said, snapping him out of it. "Saito-dono, was it?" Saito looked up at the oni as he stepped into the light. Saito had known he wasn't alone, but from his perspective, it had been harder to see the other person's face. He had simply seen the rasetsu attacking and promptly intervened. "You have my apology," Amagiri said, bowing politely to him.
"Amagiri Kyuuju?" Saito said, hiding his surprise well. "Who was that rasetsu?" he asked, sheathing his sword. It hadn't been one of theirs.
"He was a Tosa Domain rasetsu of Yukimura Koudou's making. There were rumors that a rasetsu who had escaped the Tosa manor a month ago was committing acts of murder in Edo. I was confirming the validity of that rumor," Amagiri explained as he reached down and scooped up a handful of ash to examine it more closely. Indeed, it was just the same as the remains of Tanaka Souta. The strange occurrence Miyagawa Sumiko witnessed had not been a fluke. "The domain had ordered me to eliminate him on sight, but he had already burned through his lifespan." He allowed the ash in his hand to fall back into the pile of the rasetsu's remains and placed his hands together in a quick prayer for the departed.
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...