Sumiko let out a sigh as she sat in the grass on the side of the road and stared up at the vast blue sky above her.
"Right about now... Saito-san should be in Aizu..." she mused aloud as she leaned back against her tansu, allowing herself to relax for a short break before resuming her long journey. The area she was in currently seemed safe enough, and she hadn't run into any highway robbers for quite some time. After seeing off Sano and Shiranui, Sumiko had decided her next destination should be Sendai, in the Miyagi Prefecture. She knew for sure that Shinpachi, Saito, and Shimada were supposed to survive, so that only left her with the demon vice-commander to worry about. His appointment with death was set for the next summer, so at the moment her main concern was being able to meet up with Hijikata and Chizuru before they left for Ezo. Once the Republic of Ezo was set up, it would be difficult for her as an ordinary citizen to gain access to the island without solid proof of her connection to them. Sumiko furrowed her brow slightly as another thought occurred to her.
What about Heisuke and San'nan-san?
Technically, they should have both died already, according to history, but they were still alive and fighting as members of the Rasetsu Unit. She bit her lip and lowered her head. As rasetsus, they probably didn't have much longer to live... several months at the most.
"Damn it!" Sumiko cursed under her breath, clenching her fist around a handful of grass. She knew there was very little she could do for them. Like Okita, they were dying from something that was beyond her ability to heal. She could feel a tear threatening to form in her eye at the thought of the sadistic and cheeky swordsman. Okita... if he wasn't already dead, he soon would be. Since there was no way to save him, she hoped he would at least be able to get a chance to die on his own terms...
Sumiko quickly wiped her eyes and got back on her feet. She hoisted her tansu up onto her back again. No, she couldn't think about that now. She had to keep moving. There would be plenty of time for tears later; right now she still had a job to do. She needed to find Chizuru and Hijikata.
Hijikata and Chizuru arrived in Sendai with his troops. San'nan-san was supposed to have led the Rasetsu Unit to Sendai in advance, but they never received any reports from the Unit and lost contact with them. Hijikata was struggling with this predicament when Enomoto Takeaki, the second in command of the former Bakufu navy, came to pay him a visit shortly after their arrival.
"It's been a long time, Hijikata-kun," Enomoto greeted the former vice-commander of the Shinsengumi.
"I'm glad to see you're still the same, Enomoto-san," Hijikata said. "Stealing eight flagships from the Imperial Army... Your fearless feat astonishes me."
"Well, Hijikata-kun, you have done a commendable job yourself. I am sorry I lacked the power to save Kondo-san. We have lost a great man..." Enomoto said gravely, bowing his head, as the two men let a moment of silence pass out of respect for the fallen commander.
"Now, tell me," Hijikata spoke at length. "How are things in Sendai?" He hadn't had much time to take stock of the city's situation for himself yet.
"Actually," Enomoto said, raising his head to look Hijikata in the eye. "I haven't been able to speak with the Sendai daimyo. I've dropped by the castle several times, but they never give an 'aye' or 'nay' when I request an audience."
"Pardon me," Chizuru said softly, sliding open the door so she could serve them tea.
"And I've heard an outlandish rumor," Enomoto continued, knowing Chizuru could be trusted. "Supposedly there is a strange unit residing within the Sendai domain."
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...