“There are two casualties here! Please send for help and reinforcement immediately!” Shoukudaikiri yelled as he shielded the injured swords from the enemy. Tsurumaru quickly rushed in and carried the injured Tantous away from the battlefield.
“Tch, there’s just too many of them!” Namazuo hissed as he and Ichigo took down an enemy Tachi, but there was no end to the waves of reinforcement sent by the enemies. Atsushi rushed in and knocked down an enemy wakizashi that was aiming to attack Namazuo.
“How’d they find their way here?!” Izuminokami cursed as he along with other swords tried to defend the citadel’s building from being invaded by the enemies.
“As if I knew better than you did!” Nagasone yelled aloud as he slashed an enemy Tantou that was trying to get into the building. From afar, a troupe of History Retrograde Army resembling soldiers on horseback materialized and were charging towards them.
“What a grand welcoming. It is tough being popular huh?” Kashuu joked dryly.
“Stop messing around and do this seriously already!” Yamatonokami chided him as he tried to steady himself while catching his breath. The History Retrograde Army suddenly appeared in the citadel and caught everyone by surprise and now everyone got tangled in a desperate struggle in attempt to defend the citadel.
All of a sudden, there was a blast coming from one wing of the citadel. The building erupted into flames and began spreading towards the other side of the building. The enemies took chance on the sword warriors’ surprise and launched an assult.
“Damn it, they are really serious on taking us down, don’t they?!” Mutsunokami gasped as he fired several shots at the enemy. Many of their warriors were already exhausted, yet there is no waning in the enemy numbers and they continued to flood into the citadel. “At this rate, we will be wiped out!”
“Retreat, everyone! I repeat, Master has ordered us to RETREAT!” From the central of the citadel, Heshikiri’s voice could be heard giving orders to everyone. “Watch each other back and return back to the citadel, NOW!”
Shoukudaikiri took the lead from the West as he quickly ushered the rest to follow him. On the east side, Honebami guided the Toushirou tantous back into the Master’s quarter while Ichigo and Nagikitsune hold on the line to prevent the enemies from entering. “Everyone, hurry up!” Horikawa called out to the Shinsengumi swords. The Uchigatana followed him, cutting down any enemies that stood in their way while fleeing to safety.
“The Master decided that it is too dangerous to stay in the citadel. While many things are unconfirmed, the Master believed that the Retrograde Army plans to destroy us so they could freely alter history.” Konnosuke informed the swords who had retreated inside. “We don’t have much time to explain. Master will be sending all of you out of the citadel.” He added on, “While you were out there, try to uncover and locate the enemy’s motive and stop their advancement. No matter what we have to protect history at all cost.”
They could heard the sounds of sword clashing just outside the building, some of the older swords were trying to hold back the enemy from entering their last line of defence. “Does Master know where to send us to?” Heshikiri asked Konnosuke. The answer was, just as vague as how their Master was. “Since he don’t know where the enemy could be aiming at, you will be dispatched by group into different locations. But then…”
“But what?” Izuminokami piped in impatiently, sounds of outside battle did not quell the situation any better.
“There are too many of you.” Konnosuke explained. “We don’t know if the transportation device is able to send so many group into different location, so there may be a risk that you may end up being separated from your group. We advise you to remain alert and caution at all times…” There’s more to explain but then the roof suddenly caved in and the retrograde army began flooding in. The tantous scrambled in shock while the older swords tried to stop them.
“Everyone hurry, get into the transportation device!” Heshikiri commanded. Group by group, the swords were sent out of the citadel. “Somebody stand guard at Master’s room!”
“Kiyomitsu, we should get going.” Yamatonokami said as he gripped Kashuu’s hand.
“I will always be by your side no matter what happen.” Kashuu smiled as he slipped the sakura hairpin into Yamatonokami free hand. In the moment when Yamatonokami eyed the hairpin, he quickly shoved Yamatonokami into the transportation device along with other swords.
“Kiyomitsu, what are you doing?” He cried out as he saw Kashuu blocked an enemy that knocked out Shishiou.
“Go on, Yasusada. For me and for everyone, we are all counting on you.” Kashuu winked at him. The enemy was too strong for Kashuu to handle and its sword ended up cutting through Kashuu’s arm. “I will protect Master and everyone until everyone left.”
He wanted to rush towards Kashuu, to grab hold of him and pull him away from the battlefield but the transportation device had activated and Nagasone was gripping him in an iron grip. The last thing he saw was Kiyomitsu rushing towards Master’s room with his arms bleeding.
I was inspired to write this fic based on Fire Emblem Awakening. Due to the fact that there are many characters in Touken Ranbu, I will only have selected few characters in here. For this fic, it will heavily focused on the Shinsengumi and the changing times of Japan. I will try to write the story so that it follows what was recorded in history but some may be altered a bit in order to suit the plot.
I know that there are some Touken Ranbu Musical focusing on the Shinsengumi. While I did saw some trailer and cutscenes, but I don't watch the entire play so no, I don't intend on plagiarising the work, the plot may be of coincidence. If you think I have been violating with the laws of copyright, inform me and I will remove it immediately.
As always. constructive crticism is welcomed here.
Chapter 2: A Name
Sometimes a reunion with former master is not a joyful event at all...
“Is that the last of them?” One of the men asked as he sheathed his sword.
“That should be it.” Another one replied.
“Hijikata-san, we found someone laying not too far away from here.” A third person came running up to the two of them.
“Could it be one of them?”
“I don’t think so. The way he dressed is too different from them.” He then led the rest across the plains where the said person is found. True to his words, they soon discovered an unconscious person laying at the spot.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
“No, look carefully, he’s breathing actually.”
“Hijikata-san, we have to do something.”
“What do you propose we do then, Todo-kun?”
“Uh… I don’t know. What do you suggest, Saito-san?”
He heard voices swirling all over him. Who is that? It sounded so familiar yet so distant. Blue eyes opened and was greeted by the blinding sunlight. He blinked a few times before his eyes finally adjusted to the sunlight and he saw several figures hovering above him.
“Hey, he’s awake!” The shortest of the three exclaimed.
“I can see that.” The tallest one said as his eyes scanned him as if he was examining him.
“What’s your name?” The third one asked him. “Why are you laying here?” As soon as he made eye contact with the man, he felt as if time has stopped. That man standing in front of him, his long hair tied neatly in a ponytail and his expression spoke of seriousness, is none other than his former master, Hijikata Toshizou.
“I am…” He choked on his words. Of all times he have to meet with the Shinsengumi and of all of them, it has to be his former master, there’s no escaping this right?
“What’s wrong?” The man prompted, he could tell the man was getting impatient already.
There’s no way he’s telling him his true identity, could he? “I… I don’t remember anything… Not even my name…” But he felt as if he would be doomed anyway no matter what he make up, Hijikata is not the type to easily trust people.
“You don’t remember? That sounds suspicious enough.” Hijikata frowned at his answer, obviously unsatisfied.
“What if he’s speaking the truth?” Todo asked.
“And what if he’s telling a lie?” Saito retorted back, eyes scanning him warily. “The way he’s dressing and how he’s carrying a sword as well. There’s possibility that he could be an assassin or a Choshu’s spy.”
“B-But, I-I’m merely speaking the truth here. I really had no recollection of anything that happen to me, not even my name…” He explained.
“I understand what you’re saying, but if you’re going to proof your innocence, you have to come up with something more convincing.” Hijikata said dryly. “We will have to take you into custody at the meantime. If you dare to do anything funny, we will have your head.” And with that, his sword was confiscated and Saito had his hands bounded.
Shinsengumi, how nostalgic, he thought. To meet with his master again, and even interact with him, Horikawa just couldn’t picture the situation right now. Is it ok to be this close with him? What happen if the course of history changes because of him?
The group marched their way back towards their residence, Yagi Gennojo in Mibu, Kyoto. Horikawa remembered the journey like the back of his hands. His body, strapped next to Hijikata as he walked back towards the Shinsengumi headquarters. Well, perhaps not at this time, the Shinsengumi wasn’t formed yet at this time around. They were known as the Roshigumi at that time. The streets of Kyoto had been in chaos in the past few years. It all began when Japan opened up its borders to foreigners for trades, wave of political distress and upset began rising as the people divided according to their opinion. A clash of thought between samurai would lead to segregation of the samurai clan as those who disagreed defect from their han and began roaming the streets. The streets of Kyoto were littered with ronin and numerous assassination, an unruly sight indeed. From what he had heard from his master, the Roshigumi was formed with the purpose of keeping Kyoto safe from the anti-bakufu ronin and protecting the shogunate, or that was what he heard of.
“Hijikata-san, look over there!” Todo cried suddenly, his hand pointing towards the direction where a village can be seen far away.
“Is that… fire?!” From where they stood, they could see smoke billowing into the sky. “Has a fire broke out or something?”
“It is possible that there are ronin in that village.” Saito suggested.
“Let’s hurry up.” Hijikata commanded. “We have to protect the village at all cost.”
“But what about him?” Todo asked, referring to Horikawa who was still bounded.
“Unless he’s on fire as well.” Hijikata replied back. “Saving that village is our priority.” He and the few group of men then rushed towards the direction of the village. Horikawa knew that there isn’t much to worry about, it’s just a small raid with some bandits but he could feel his legs dragging him along with the rest of the group as if he was worried about the battle outcome.
When the group rushed into the scene, the place had been ravaged by ronins who robbed and set the shop houses into flames. They could hear the people’s scream as some were being cut down by ronins.
“Hold it right there!” Hijikata called out. “To attack and injured innocent people, you are really the lowest of the low!”
“And why would you care?” One of them questioned. “No one cares about what we do, and there’s no way anyone’s going to stop us.”
“Not until today.” From afar, he watched Hijikata unsheathed his blade—him and gave a battle cry. “Roshigumi, CHARGE!!!” And everyone drew their swords and began charging at the ronins.
Horikawa stayed at the side-line as he watched the battle unfold before him. Villagers scattered and ran away from the scene as the battle broke out. He watched the Roshigumi member took down the ronin, Hijikata in particular displayed confidence and remorse when it comes to handling a sword. As swift as the gust of wind, he blocked and slashed down an enemy ronin and kicked another onto the ground before stabbing his knee.
It was then that Horikawa felt the presence of another being that is not supposed to exist in this time. He looked up into the sky and saw a distortion appeared in the sky but everyone was too involved in the battle to notice the presence of the new enemy. The Time Retrograde Army, he recognized that aura. Quickly, he followed the figure as it came towards a horse drawn cart. The enemy then used his sword to strike the horse which caused it to panic and sprung into a frantic gallop across the street. It ran into the Roshigumi who were in the middle of the battle. The fighting samurais were shocked at this as they quickly scattered about and trying to get away from the horse’s path. Some of the ronins used the Roshigumi distraction as a chance to hightail away from the battle.
Hijikata also got distracted by the sudden commotion turned around to check on his comrades. The ronin leader saw an opening and began charging at him. Horikawa was the only one who witnessed this, the rest were too busy pursuing the ronins or trying to stop the horse.
“Hijikata-san, look out!” The ronin caught Hijikata by surprise as he slashed his blade out of Hijikata’s hand and pointed him down.
“You’re going to stop us?!” The man laughed down at him gleefully. “Let’s see who’s the one going to get stopped here.”
“Hijikata-san!” Horikawa called out. By instinct, his body began moving on its own like his sword body is summoning him to fight, for his master. Even though his hands were tied up, he managed to grab the hilt of the fallen katana and lunged forward towards the enemy ronin that was about to strike down Hijikata. It all happened within a flash that he did not realized he had pierced through the ronin’s body. By the time when he regained his senses, that man’s body fell onto the ground with a lifeless thud, dead and motionless.
“Why’d you do that?!” Hijikata asked him in disbelief.
“I just can’t let you get killed.” He answered back. His eyes darted between the blade and the dead man on the ground. What had he done? Did he do the right thing? Has history been altered? So many thought raced in his mind that he just can’t find an answer to those question.
“That was amazing!” Todo exclaimed as he ran up to the group. “You actually fight while your hands were tied up. How’d you do that?”
“I-I… I don’t even know what I was thinking just now. The only thing I was thinking is saving you…”
“I appreciate that.” Hijikata said, taking his sword back from him. “But that doesn’t mean that you had convinced me. You will still be taken to the Roshigumi headquarters and have your fate decided there.”
“… I understand…” Horikawa just bowed out of obedience.
“Should we at least give him a name?” Saito asked. “I know he have forgotten his name but it is better to properly address him instead of giving random names.”
“Well said, Saito.” Hijikata nodded in agreement before he turned to face Horikawa again. “From today onwards, you will be known as Koyu.”
“Koyu? What kind of a name is that, Hijikata-san?” Todo asked in surprise. “That doesn’t sound anywhere like a name at all.”
“That’s because he used my blade, which was made by Kunihiro.” Hijikata explained, “But calling him something like Horikawa or Kunihiro would brought too much shame for a famed swordsmith, let alone a wanderer like him with no recollection at all.”
“If… If you insist, you may call me that.” Horikawa bowed in acceptance. He could have laughed internally at the choices of names Hijikata coined for him. In truth, he no longer remember his real name, nor did he know if he still exist in the future to come. His name, like his sword body, had been engulfed in the ocean depth and never to be seen or heard again. Fate is really cruel, Horikawa thought. First, to be separated from his comrades and master, then being disposed into the depth of the ocean and now he ended up reuniting with his former master. Swords shouldn’t have any emotion, but he could felt the strings of emotion tugging his heart, the yearning to protect his master, to stop him from entering his final battle. But in the end, he could not do it, and there’s no way in turning history around.
“Hey Koyu-kun, hurry up, let’s get going already.” Todo called out and tugged at the rope that was binding his wrist.
“Uh, yes.” He then quickened his pace to catch up with the rest of the group. Horikawa may not have the answer to his questions but now he had some fair guess in it. He saved Hijikata today, he stopped the Time Retrograde Army’s plan on altering history, for now. There must be a reason why he ended up reuniting with his former master and he was determined to find out until the very end. In the meantime, he will stay at Hijikata’s side and protect him until when his final days came.
While Hijikata has used several swords, it seems that Izuminokami is the only one with the concrete proof. It's unknown if the wakizashi he owned is Kunihiro or if he actually owned it. The reason that Kunihiro is called after his maker is the fact that his blade is missing and hence his real name is unknown.
As for the nickname Hijikata gave him, it is also part of Horikawa Kunihiro's life story. He has two kinds of workmanship. One is 'Tensho-uchi' or 'Koyu-uchi', which indicates the blades are made during his Tensho days of wandering. The other is known as 'Keicho-uchi' or 'Horikawa-uchi' that indicates the blades he made after he settled at the Horikawa section of Kyoto, it is also around the time of Keicho when he finally settle. So Hijikata literally named Kunihiro 'Koyu' because he think Kunihiro is a wanderer and the fact that he used the Kunihiro blade... I'm sorry if my humor is a bit dry here.
If you like this fic, don't hesitate to leave a kudos, bookmark or comment. I would gladly appreciate it.
Chapter 3: Premonition
Chaos broke out in the Roshigumi residence in the midst of the night. A mysterious warrior appeared before them...
“Oh? You guys are late tonight. Did you all got caught in a fight or something?” It was late by the time the group returned to Yagi Gennojo.
“Some ronins have been creating trouble in certain places.” Hijikata replied curtly. “Anyway, where is Kondo-san at the moment? I need to report to him.”
“Kondo-san? He’s with Serizawa-san at the moment.” The man answered back before he finally noticed Kunihiro. “Oh, a new face? Hijikata-san, who is he?”
“A certain wanderer who claimed he has no memories or recollection.” He replied again, curtly. “I’m just getting him into our custody to confirm my suspicions.”
“Alert as always, Hijikata-san. Well, good luck with your… err… questionings, then.”
And now, Horikawa found himself sitting before three men whom each wore different but unreadable expression. He could tell that Hijikata has not rid his suspicion on him, Kondo seemed dubious or is he concern? On the other hand, he can’t even tell what Serizawa was thinking, not that he was close to this man at all.
“So you’re saying that you don’t remember anything, not even your family or where you live?” Kondo asked after hearing everything Horikawa had said.
“Y-Yes, the only thing I remembered is waking up on the field and meeting Hijikata-san…” Horikawa felt bad about lying but if he were to say out the truth, he can’t expect what is to happen if he did that. Master has given them strict conduct that they should never let people know about their identity, especially their former master. There’s possibility that the course of history will change because of such action and surely that would be even worse than being killed here (or maybe it isn’t…).
“What do you think we should do, Kondo-san?” Hijikata asked Kondo. “Should we help him find his family?”
“You’re being too kind here, aren’t you, Hijikata?” Serizawa piped in. “The roshigumi’s job is to protect the streets from ronin attacks, not to help random people who lost their way.” Horikawa internally flinched a little at those harsh words.
“But what if he’s a spy or an assassin?” Hijikata questioned. “He could be lying to us to achieve his purpose.”
“Jeez, you’re thinking too much, Hijikata.” Serizawa chided. “If you’re so worry about him, why not you look after him? And if he is really causing trouble, then go ahead and kill him.”
“Serizawa-san, aren’t you being a little bit too reckless in this matter?”
He watched as Serizawa stood up from where he sit and headed towards the shoji doors. “I could say the same thing to you, Hijikata. You have been rather tight-headed even with small matters, you should lighten yourself a little bit.” He gave Horikawa a threatening glare (which he flinched slightly) before he left the room.
“Toshi, why don’t you explain to me what happened from the beginning until the end? That way I can understand the situation better.” Kondo requested. The atmosphere in the room seemed to relax a bit now that Serizawa is out of the picture. Hijikata took this as his cue and related today’s incident to Kondo.
“I believe this boy is telling the truth.” Kondo said after listening to Hijikata’s story.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Think about it, Toshi. He has not been giving us much trouble, has he?” Kondo explained. “And you said he used a sword to save you even though his hands were tied up. If he can do that, he could’ve attacked you right at the beginning but he don’t, isn’t that proof sufficient?”
Hijikata sighed in defeat, he contemplated Kondo’s words before turning to face Horikawa. “I still have doubt on whether should I trust you, but since Kondo-san gave his word. We decided to believe in your story.”
Horikawa could feel himself let out a sigh of relief as he quickly bowed while muttering his gratitude. “Th-Thank you, I-I really appreciate it.”
“You may stay in our place temporary but we ask that you keep yourself in your room unless you’re given the permission to leave. We don’t want you to get into trouble with other people.” Kondo informed him.
“Trouble?” He pretend not to understand their word.
“We are the roshigumi. Our job is to protect the shogunate and their family from being attacked by anti-shogunate forces.” Hijikata explained. “Of those included those ronins we faced today, but our people are ronins as well. It’s beyond our control, some of them may behave like those rogue samurai with no sense of pride at all. Serizawa-san especially is one of them. You should stay away from his group whenever possible, getting into their mess won’t be good.”
“… I-I understand.” Horikawa nodded in replied.
Kondo walked up to him and gave him back his sword. “This sword is yours, isn’t it? A fine quality blade it is, take good care of it.” Horikawa accepted his sword and bowed in appreciation.
One of the shinsengumi member, Kai Shimada showed him his room. His room was located at the far end corner away from the main rooms, possibly to avoid other members to notice his presence.
Once he was alone in his room, he proceeded to sort through his items. With his items secured, he began to remove his outer clothing and noticed his time travelling device. “Kane-san, where are you? Is everyone alright?” He pondered on those questions. He tried pressing on the button but there was no reaction. “As I expected, maybe the citadel has been destroyed…” He sighed before placing it on top of a table and changed out his clothes for his sleeping robes.
Night time soon claimed Yagi Gennojo and so did the silence, but Horikawa could not find himself to sleep. So many thoughts raced in his mind. How is everybody? What happened to Master and the citadel and Kane-san? How long is he going to get cooped up with the soon-to-be Shinsengumi? What if Hijikata ended up finding out who he is? And most of all, what is the Retrograde Army motive behind this?
Despite the silence outside, he could heard the voices of the member talking and walking around, probably doing their patrol or just returned from drinking. He stared at the closed shoji doors, thoughts swirling all over the place. That was until his ears picked up the sound of a blast coming from outside and he quickly became alert to his surroundings.
“What was that?!” He could heard someone yelled.
“Is someone using a cannon or something?!”
“There’s no way the roshigumi was given a cannon! Damn it, they set one of our quarters on fire!”
A fire? In Yagi Gennojo? If he remembered correctly, nothing has ever happened in Yagi Gennojo, saved for some shenanigan caused by the roshigumi but there has never been a serious case such as a fire breakout. Sensing something amidst, Horikawa immediately stood up, got himself dressed and bring along his katana and left his room. He could care less about Hijikata’s orders, but it would be doomed if history were to change.
As he exited his room, he could see smoke billowing not too far from where he is. The roshigumi members were running all over the place trying to put out the fire. Looking up into the sky, a distortion in the sky is more than enough to confirm his suspicion. The Retrograde Army had appeared!
“Get everyone to evacuate from the building immediately, NOW!” He could hear someone giving out orders at the main corridors. “Get some water and put out the fire!”
“Is everyone alright?” Kondo asked his fellow samurais. Todo seemed to notice something as he pointed towards the sky. “What is that thing?”
From the portal opened by the distortion, they could make out some humanoid figures coming out from it. The way they walked resembled undead soldiers while emitting out a dark aura.
“Whatever this thing is, they don’t look friendly.” Hijikata deduced. “Let’s get rid of them.” And hence, a battle broke out as some of the roshigumi tried to protect their residence while some attempted on putting out the fire.
Horikawa joined in the fight from the side line, keeping an eye on the Retrograde Army and the roshigumi member. The fire wasn’t that big so it shouldn’t be much of a problem to put it out. The Retrograde Army must be planning to use it as a distraction so that they could kill some of the roshigumi.
“These people aren’t human, are they?” He could hear Harada cursed as he swung his yari to pierce an enemy wakizashi.
“Whoever they were, they should know better than to mess with the roshigumi.” Okita joked lightly. “Those who try to mess with us deserve nothing better than death.”
“Enough joking, Okita-kun.” Hijikata chided. “Hurry up and exterminate these creatures already!”
“I give. You’re not bad huh?” Todo defended himself against an enemy uchigatana as he tried to steady himself.
“Heisuke-kun, behind you!” Harada called out. Horikawa whipped his head towards where Todo was and noticed an enemy tantou was aiming to attack him from behind. He tried to get closer to Todo’s side but being on the side line and surrounded by the enemy, he will not be able to reach him at this rate and the rest are occupied with their own battle.
Just then, another figure appeared from the distortion portal. The figure dived into the battlefield and used his blade to shield Todo from the enemy’s attack. But the enemy was persistent to break through his defence and Horikawa could tell that the person’s strength to hold them down is wavering. That person turned his head sideways towards where Okita was standing as he uttered a word, “Gimme a hand…”
"Whatever you said," Okita gleefully unsheathed his blade and created a distraction for the enemy. The enemy turned around when he noticed Okita, his strength slackened, which created an opening for the man to kill it. As soon as all the enemies were defeated and the fire was put out, everyone (or more like those who were involved in a battle) had their attention turned towards the mysterious man who appeared out of nowhere. Horikawa observed him carefully, noticing how his eyes were concealed with bandages and his hair fell just below his shoulder but the most noticeable trait, is the sky blue haori that was draped over his shoulder. Horikawa soon recognized it, this man is one of him, a Touken Danshi!
“You made quite a grand entrance, young man.” Okita said. “Though I would have said that you stole my kill.”
“Enough, Okita.” Todo rolled his eyes at Okita. “I bet by the time you reached me I was dead already.”
“You there.” Hijikata called out to the man. “Thank you for helping us. May I know who you are?”
That man was silent during the entire rambling. Slowly, he turned around and faced Hijikata before replying, “Okusawa… Okusawa Katsujiro…”
“Okusawa-san, you do make a great samurai.” Kondo commented. “It would be great to have someone as skilful as you in our ranks.”
“…That is something I cannot accept…” Okusawa said before bowing at them. “I fear that my skills still requires improvement.”
“I don’t think so.” Harada piped in. “If it wasn’t for you who rushed in to save Heisuke, who knows what is going to happen to us.”
“I’m just glad that all of you are alright.” Okusawa said. “But I was not here to talk about me. Big changes are at the horizon and the world is at danger.” For a moment, Horikawa could feel their eyes locked at each other for a moment as 'Okusawa' gave an understanding nod. “You have been warned, fellow ronins. What you saw tonight is just the beginning of a calamity.” And with those words, he turned away and left the scene.
“Big changes? Calamity? What a weird person he is.” Todo commented, placing both his arms behind his head.
“Must a dreamy type of person.” Okita shrugged his shoulder. “Fine by me. It is ideal for someone as young as him to have his own dream.”
“It’s not like we have time to care what he said either.” Hijikata said sternly. “Is everyone alright?” They went around making sure that everyone was unharmed. Good thing was that the fire was not that big, so the building remains intact. Hijikata did made a note that they have to clean the building tomorrow morning. All those activities made the roshigumi exhausted and everyone turned in for the night.
“Thanks for helping us just now, Koyu-kun.” Kondo thanked him when everyone left for their rooms.
“I-It’s nothing.” Horikawa just shook his head and smiled. “I’m just trying to help everyone out.”
“It’s kind of amazing that you know how to fight even though you have no memories of who you are.” Kondo joked lightly.
“I-I don’t know what happened to me.” Horikawa quickly came up with some excuses to cover his lie. “I-It’s just as if I-I am acting on instinct… You know, like maybe how I was taught to fight was etched in the back of my mind but I just can’t remember it…”
“That may be it, but we really appreciate it.” He felt Kondo pat his shoulder. “You should get some sleep now. It will be a busy day tomorrow.” Horikawa bowed in reply before he parted ways with Kondo.
He returned back to his room and change into his sleeping robes. That was when he noticed his time travelling device was glowing. What could this mean? Had something happened?
“Horikawa, I see that you have been taken in by the shinsengumi.” He could heard someone’s voice coming from his window. He went to open the window and found 'Okusawa' just outside of it.
“Yamatonokami-san, so you end up being here as well?” Horikawa asked, letting him in.
“I ran into some of the Time Retrograde Army just now and followed them. I didn’t even know that I will end up being in here.” Okusawa… No, Yamatonokami unwrapped the bandages around his face so that he could see Horikawa eye-to-eye. “The Shinsengumi, huh? How nostalgic.”
“Yamatonokami-san, how is your side? Did you met up with any of our fellow swords?”
Yamatonokami shook his head. “I didn’t met anyone on my way here. I’m really worried about them.” He stated. “We are supposed to leave together and yet we got scattered on our way here.”
“It couldn’t be helped.” Horikawa sighed. “Master must be doing it in a hurry to protect all of us.”
“I know, but… What are we going to do now?” Yamatonokami asked. “We have no master to guide us. And we are so helpless being alone and all those things are all over the place. Can we even do it?”
Horikawa blinked as he tried to digest the barrage of questions. There’s no way he had any better answers. They were lost, like a wanderer who had nothing but themselves to rely on. “You know, although we do not have a master now, we still have their orders with us.”
“To stop the Time Retrograde Army from altering history?”
“That’s right… And with that orders, is their trust on us.” Horikawa added. “There is a reason why we were sent here and met our former master. The same goes for the rest of our comrade. Maybe master has already predicted this, or maybe they had something in their mind, or maybe they don’t, but we have to accept it as our duty and fate.” He looked out from his window, noticing the sleeping town of Kyoto illuminated by faint lantern. “The fate of the world lies in our hand, so does our comrades, even our former master. We cannot give up, nor could we turn away, because there’s no one else who could do that. That’s what master put their trust on us. As long as we keep that faith, we will always be fighting for tomorrow.”
“Horikawa…” Yamatonokami was at the loss of words. “A-Are you trying to say that…?”
“Yes, we must move forward. If we continue to linger on such questions, we will never progress.”
“I can see what you are hinting at. So, do you have a plan for now?”
“I am planning to stay with the Shinsengumi for the meantime.” Horikawa decided. “Those guys have appeared before the Shinsengumi for two times today. It could be possible that they were targeting this time period.”
“I see, I leave you to watch over them.” Yamatonokami said. He began to retie the bandages and covered his eyes. “I will roam across Kyoto’s street to search for any clues or our comrades. Let’s meet again someday, Horikawa.”
“Yamatonokami-san, what is the point of hiding your face? I think that’s somewhat unnecessary.” Horikawa piped in.
“I don’t think I can go around showing my face to people. It would be damn if I caused some trouble to master because of me, I could’ve changed history.” If talked about being smart or quick-witted, Yamatonokami just isn’t cut out of it. During one of their sortie at Ikedaya, Yamatonokami almost endangered the group when he entered the Shinsengumi battlefield. If it wasn’t for Kashuu who snapped him out of it, they would’ve been dead already. But then, even if Yamatonokami wanted to disguise himself, he could’ve been use a more appropriate approach instead of… using bandages to hide his eyes…
“But don’t you think you will get even more attention with that look?”
“A-At… At least I can hide my identity…” He reassured weakly. “N-No one will ask me about wh-who I am or whatever silly questions…”
“If you say so,” Horikawa laughed a little at the reply. “Good luck out there. A-And… please be careful, don’t drag yourself into human affair…” Yamatonokami gave a firm nod before jumping out of the window and disappeared into the darkness abyss. Horikawa closed the window and prepared to hit his futon. He turned to glance at his time travelling device on the table but there was no reaction to it. It has been just a day since he arrived (or maybe not?) and so many has happened already. Horikawa prayed that whatever is about to happen in the future, he hoped that everyone would be alright and ended this together. Putting his faith in the future, he prayed for everyone’s safety before drifting into sleep.
Aaaand.... Yasusada shows up!!! I read up somewhere about Bakumatsu Tenrouden where Yasusada assumed the name Okusawa when disguising as a Shinsengumi member. The other name, Katsujiro is the name of Okita's father.
Did I portray Yasusada abit overboard? He just seemed too serious in this part that it just doesn't sound like him at all... But trust me, I promise that Yasusada will eventually return back to his cheery, sunny personality. He's just probably trying to hide it under his Okusawa disguise.
Chapter 4: Where My Strength Lies
Horikawa bonded with members of the Shinsengumi and met some old acquaintance.
Two weeks has passed since Horikawa found himself at the Shinsengumi, or the so called Roshigumi. Yagi Gennojo has been nothing but chaos everyday. There has been a lot of fight and arguments among the Roshi faction, particularly Serizawa’s group and Kondo’s group.
However, he had more problems to worry about. Horikawa had been trying to avoid getting too much attention in the Roshigumi, for the sake of history and his own life. Todo and Harada had been quite nice to him, Okita would sometimes crack jokes about killing him while Saito would sometime keep a close eye on him whenever he’s not in his room, obviously that they were wary about him. He could also feel that Hijikata was growing suspicious about him, since no one has filed a missing person report in the past two weeks, Hijikata started thinking Horikawa was lying to him. Still, Horikawa continued with his façade, acting nonchalant or oblivious whenever Hijikata approached him so that no secret is spilled. But then, it made him wonder just how long things are going to continue this way?
It was another usual day at Yagi Gennojo. The weather has been growing warmer everyday, signalling spring arrival. Horikawa let out a sigh as he looked up and saw cherry blossom budding off the branch. It made him think about the cherry blossom tree back at the citadel everyone resided in. He couldn’t help but worry about how has everyone been and whether they are able to go home.
“I see that you helped us cleaned the compound.” Horikawa jumped a bit at the voice. He turned around and saw Inoue Genzaburo standing by the walkway. “You have been helping us a lot recently. We couldn’t be more appreciated about it.” He smiled at him the gentle smile that Horikawa once remembered.
“Kondo-san gave me the permission to stay here for the time being and it’s not like I should just stand around doing nothing at all.” He said as he wiped the sweat on his forehead using the sleeves of his yukata. He decided that it would be better to adopt the traditional Japanese wear instead of his usual clothes so as not to raise suspicious among the lower rank members. It’s not that bad either, he really find wearing the old clothes being rather nostalgic. “Besides, I’m not really being much help either, I was just so useless…”
Inoue gave him a sympathetic smile before patting him on the head. “Don’t say that. There are times when we will need help from others and times when we help others. Losing memories can be a hard thing, but why not create new memories from the present?”
He kept his expression hidden as he watched Inoue left the yard towards the training ground. It’s not like he need much of an advice from them when he know more things than everyone here, which is why it is so hard to keep everything bottled up.
Lunch within roshigumi was anything but luxurious. Horikawa was not going to complain about it, a bowl of rice, miso soup and a meagre grilled mackerel was more than what he could ask for. There had been people who starve in the street, thank goodness it’s not him though. After finishing his lunch, he decided to drop by the dojo to practice his sparring for a bit, so he brought his sword with him and headed off to the dojo.
The training yard was definitely the liveliest part of the headquarters. Every day young man aspiring to be great samurai spent most of their free time sparring and improving their sword skills. Sword play seemed to be the only way of living in these days, but the tides are changing. In the past, samurais were well respected noble family but as time changes, so do people’s ideals. Samurai within the clans began disagreeing among each other and they roamed the street, causing ruckus all over the place. But then, it seemed to be a good changes for some people, for Hijikata. Those who were not from samurai family were given the opportunity to wield swords, for the sake of self-protection.
“Take that!” He could hear Shinpachi cried as he sparred with someone else. Standing by the dojo entrance, he watched as Shinpachi swung his bokken while Saito parried his attack. The motion continued for a few times until Saito found an opening and knocked the bokken out of Shinpachi’s hands.
“Daaamn Saito, just let me win for once, can’t you?” Shinpachi whined as he picked up his bokken.
“There’s no such things as showing mercy in the battlefield.” Saito said calmly. Okita just laughed and pat Shinpachi on the shoulder. “That’s Saito to you. Don’t expect him to go easy on you whenever he’s holding a sword.”
“Speaking which, someone’s here to join us.” Harada said and everyone turned their attention towards Horikawa who was standing by the door.
“Oh? Isn’t it that Horo-sha (wanderer) Hijikata brought back two weeks ago?” Okita said, he couldn’t tell if the man was mocking him or just joking. “Losing memories was a painful thing indeed but would you rather end up sticking with us?”
“Enough, Souji!” Todo chided him. “You’re gonna scared him.”
“Ease up, Heisuke-kun.” Okita laughed a bit. “Though I can’t help but feel curious about Koyu-kun…”
“What do you mean?” Shinpachi quirked a brow. “I know that it’s true that he lost his memories, but things couldn’t be that bad right?”
Okita inched closer towards him and Horikawa could feel the blood in his veins ran cold. “We had spent the past days searching around town and asking people if they know any missing person and we got nothing but a blank result.” He gulped a bit, Okita lowered down so he could talk to him eye-to-eye. “I will keep you alive for a little bit longer, but if I heard any bad things about you, then don’t expect you to escape my blade.”
“Okita, it’s not good to judge people without having concrete proof.” Harada said. “Koyu-kun have been behaving well in the past two weeks and he did not give us any trouble at all, there’s no harm in letting him stay.”
“A person’s most dangerous moment is when he’s on our back.” Saito said. “He may have acted well in front of us to convince us but what if he’s doing dirty work behind our backs?”
“Enough saying, I know that the roshigumi are full of weirdos but there has been no sighting of him doing bad stuff.” Shinpachi stood up for him. “We have no concrete proof that he is against us, the only thing we can do is just sit and watch how things turn out.”
“Shinpachi’s right.” Todo piped in. “It may not be the best but we can’t simply accuse people without any proof. If things really happen, the only thing we can do is to stop it before it gotten worse.”
Okita took a few steps backward, his eyes still glued on Horikawa. “I understood what you all mean, I can’t just simply kill people without Kondo-san’s consent.” At that, Horikawa could feel his heart relaxed a bit and he let out a breath of relief but Okita hasn’t finish. “But if we were to catch you doing things behind our backs, I won’t hesitate to take your head.”
“Geez, stop scaring him already. He has so much to deal with.” Harada said. “Let’s get back to sparring shall we?”
“Don’t take everything into your heart, ‘kay?” Todo comforted him with a pat on the shoulder. “Everyone here are ronin, so they can be a bit rough with people sometimes. But as long as they were not from Serizawa’s group, you don’t have to worry much.”
“Speaking which, you’re here to train, aren’t you, Koyu-kun?” Okita asked, waving his bokken. “Would you mind sparring with me?”
“It’s been a while since we had someone new to spar with. This is gonna be exciting.” Harada said in excitement. “We got bored fighting among each other all the time.”
“I wonder how he will fare in combat?” Saito wondered. “I had seen him battled a few times. His moves are amazing to say.” Todo piped in. Everyone turned their attention towards Horikawa who remained quiet all the time. “Will you spar with me, Koyu-kun?” Okita asked again, but Horikawa gave no reply. “C’mon, I promise I won’t get too rough with you.”
He hesitated for a moment, before he finally relented and went to retrieve a bokken of his own preference. “Oh? You prefer to use a shorter sword? Are you really alright with that?” Harada asked him.
“It will be fine.” Horikawa insisted. “Shorter swords are lighter and is more suitable for me to handle.”
“Well, if you insist…” Okita heaved a sigh before he readied his stance. “Then come at me then, I expect the worst out of you.”
Deep breath, he reminded himself as he steadied his sword and got into his fighting stance. “Do your worst!” He dared himself to challenge the so-called genius samurai.
Their battle soon blurred in a fury of wood clashing. Okita’s battle stance reminded him of Kashuu and Yamatonokami. The way he charged and moved around was exactly the same as Kashuu, light, swift and graceful. Yamatonokami may not be as fast as Kashuu, but his ruthlessness and strength were inherited from his master. As one of Hijikata’s support sword, Horikawa may not be the best in combat, but being a support sword has its own advantage. A wakizashi abilities are known for their observant nature, being able to see things beyond other’s vision, which allowed him to search for a person’s weakness.
Okita swung his bokken several times, he managed to block and dodged his attack, keeping himself on defensive position so that he could wait for the right time to strike. “Not bad, Koyu-kun, I’d never thought you could keep it up so well.” Okita mocked as he swung his bokken again but he parried it off. “But you won’t score a hit if you continue like that, try to land a hit.”
“It’s better to stay cautious and remain alert to your opponent rather than just reckless assault.” He said, blocking Okita’s thrust while shifting his balance to his right foot. He shifted his stance, holding his bokken on one hand preparing to strike. Okita seemed to take this as an opening as he delivered his signature move, the three hit strike. This caused Horikawa to switch to defensive mode again as he barely managed to block and dodge the thrust. Things are just getting started up.
“You are the second one who managed to dodge my signature move.” Okita commented. He swung his bokken again but Horikawa once again parried the slash. “Just who are you? A normal ronin couldn’t be this impressive.”
They pushed each other apart, creating a distance between them. “I may not have my memories, but I believe my knowledge about fighting and sparring is still somewhere at the back of my mind. It just needs to be triggered.” He steadied his grip on his bokken, holding it diagonally in front of him.
“Well said, then show me your true battle style.” Okita chuckled, preparing his stance. “This is getting me excited already.” He then lifted his bokken and started charging towards Horikawa. His stance may seemed intimidating, but this was just the chance Horikawa was waiting for. He quickly held his sword horizontally and lowered his stance while awaiting for Okita to come closer to him. Once Okita was within his reach, he then dealt a strike upwards that knocked Okita’s bokken out of his hands. Okita was caught surprise that he lost his footing and fell onto the floor, his bokken landed on the floor next to him with a loud ‘thud’, like a bell that concluded the match.
“That’s one hit in, Koyu is the winner!” Shinpachi announced. The audience seemed to return back from their daze as they gasped at the outcome, awestruck and amazed. “That’s amazing, Koyu-kun!” Todo called out, Harada flashed a wink, even Saito had an impressive expression on his face.
“Maan, that was really excited.” Okita laughed as he picked up his bokken. “I’d never thought I’d lose to Koyu-kun. You must be something.”
“Yes, that’s a really impressive match.” Another voice could be heard in the dojo. Everyone turned their attention to the door to see Kondo, Hijikata and Yamanami standing there for who knows how long. “Koyu’s battle style is amazing, just like a true samurai.”
“And that means my skills are getting rusty.” Okita joked, as if he’s trying to insult himself. “I really need to work harder or else I’m going to be at the end of the sword.”
“Now, now, Okita-kun, you’re not that bad either.” Yamanami tried to comfort him. “You just need to learn to focus and pay more attention.”
“I thought that last time you killed the ronin was just by chance.” Hijikata voiced out. “But to think that you actually bested Souji in a duel… How is it possible that you could fight so well when you claim to have lost your memories?”
“Beats me…” Horikawa replied, he had to be very careful when answering Hijikata’s question. He wouldn’t dare to spill out any secrets or leaks that could blow through his disguise. “It’s strange. I cannot even remember where or when I first pick up a sword, yet the sensation is there, as if I have been doing this a long time ago. Whenever I picked up a sword to fight, I would often have a familiar feeling of someone teaching me how to fight.”
“It could be some of your memory fragments.” Yamanami said. “Some people with amnesia will have this feeling of déjà vu. It’s like something etched at the back of their mind but they cannot recall.” He smiled a bit before turning to face Hijikata. “Though, I would like to say, the way Koyu-kun fight just now seemed to resemble the way Hijikata fight.”
“How could you say that, Yamanami-san?” Todo asked. “I don’t see any similarities in their fighting style.”
Hijikata reacted sharply to such comment, to the point that everyone in the dojo is finding it amusing. “D-Do you have to put it like that, Yamanami-san? There’s no way I fight like he does.”
“It’s true that it may not be obvious to you, Heisuke-kun.” Kondo said. “But if you were to see Toshi practice alone, his stance is very similar to Koyu.”
“No doubt Kondo-san have such good eye.” Okita laughed. “But seriously, if only Hijikata can keep his calm in a duel, he would have better chances of winning like how Koyu-kun did just now.”
“But it won’t be this interesting if Hijikata-san lost his fiery temper.” Shinpachi joked. “I just can’t imagine seeing Hijikata looking so calm and being polite to everyone.”
“A-Are you insulting me?!” Everyone laughed at Hijikata’s outburst, even Horikawa found himself unable to suppress a chuckle.
“Of course not,” Okita continued, “We’re trying to give you advice on how to be nicer but for Hijikata-san who’s a spoiled brat, he’s better being a meanie.” And everyone burst into laughter at Okita’s remark while Hijikata mumbled strings of curse under his breath.
“Speaking which,” Kondo cleared his throat, silencing everyone in the process. “There are some things I intended to inform you all.”
“Have we received orders from Aizu?” Harada asked.
“At the moment, we still haven’t received any orders from Aizu.” Yamanami said. “But I’m sure everyone here remembered the reason why we travelled all the way from Edo and chosen to stay here. Our priority is to protect the shogun while maintaining peace in the streets of Kyoto.”
“The Aizu is still considering our proposal.” Kondo added. “But since it will not be long for the shogun to visit Kyoto, we have to secure the peace in Kyoto to ensure the safety of the shogun and the people.”
“So we should continue with our patrol then?” Todo asked.
“That’s true.” Hijikata nodded in approval. “Go in pairs when performing your patrol. We don’t want anything bad happen to you all.”
“But please exercise caution.” Yamanami added. “We don’t have much right, stopping the ronins from causing any ruckus is more than enough. If things are out of control, please report to us, we don’t want the civilians injured in ronin matters.”
“Do you guys have any problem?” Hijikata asked. Everyone was silent, until when they heard a timid voice spoke up. Everyone had their attention turned to Horikawa who was sitting by the corner as if he had been abandoned for a while.
“Uh… I didn’t mean to interrupt or get involved with you guys, b-but… Can I ask to join you guys during patrol?” He asked, as if he finally got the chance to voice it out.
“You aren’t part of us. We shouldn’t let outsider to get involved with our activities.” Hijikata said sternly.
“I-It’s not that I was bored being cooped up or something…” Horikawa stuttered, quickly trying to come up with an explanation. “It’s just that… I have been staying here for quite some time and there has been no progress for me at all. I-I have been thinking, if I can tagged along with you guys during patrol, m-maybe I can get some of my memories back by looking around certain areas or places…”
“I just can’t simply guarantee your safety, and neither everyone here.” Hijikata said. “Who knows what if something were to happen to you? What if you ended up being someone against us? I won’t let you jeopardize the roshigumi.”
“My, my, Hijikata-san, you’re speaking as if you’re afraid that he will remember everything and then abandon us.” Okita once again joked. “Koyu-kun has been well-verse in combat. I’m sure you have seen it with your own eyes. He will definitely be fine on his own.”
“That’s what I was worry about. If he was reveal to be an enemy, he would’ve mowed us down. Surely all of you have noticed the way he fight just now.” Hijikata said.
“Toshi, you shouldn’t think that badly of Koyu-kun.” Kondo chided him. “One must look further ahead so that they could do better judgement. Besides, I say why not let him go on patrol with us? With his skill, he could be of great help for us.”
“Kondo-san, I’m just worried that he may turn against us.”
“You’re worrying yourself too much, Toshi. I wouldn’t admit that Koyu has his own mystery but if you never gave them a bit of trust, how is that going to help you and the others?” Kondo said. “I don’t see any reason not to trust him. If you still find him distrusting, then why not keep an eye on him while giving him some freedom?”
Hijikata frowned at the statement. Trust is not as easy to give as how it is said. As much as he wishes to trust someone, it’s not easy being in this situation. Only time can tell him how things are going to turn out, so there’s nothing he could do but to follow his instinct.
“Koyu, since Kondo-san has given his permission, you’re allow to follow us during patrol.” It took him a while, but he finally made his decision and allowed some freedom for Horikawa. “But please behave properly during patrol. If you caused us any trouble, we’re going to take action against you.”
At those words, Horikawa just couldn’t express how his heart was leaping with joy. This is what he has been waiting for, some space for freedom. Maybe now he can finally performed his job as a tsukumogami, protecting history and everyone here. “Y-Yes, I’m grateful for everything, Hijikata-san! I promise I will d-do my best!” He said, bowing low at him as a way of expressing his gratitude.
The next day, Horikawa joined Hijikata and Saito on their patrol in the streets of Kyoto. The streets of Kyoto has been busy in these days. In a few weeks time, the shogun will be coming to Kyoto to visit the emperor for an important meeting. This somehow sparked the interest of the civilians, who began flocking the streets of Kyoto just to see a glimpse of the event. But then this would also meant that the number of ronins littering across Kyoto will increase. Politics is a dangerous affair and there’s no such words as eternal friends when it comes to power. There are few samurai clans who opposed the shogun or the emperor and the possibility of them causing chaos in the street when the day comes, which is why there is a need to reinforce the safety in the area to protect the innocent. But then again, the roshigumi were not acknowledged by anyone and hence they do not have much right on policing Kyoto, they were still ronins in the end.
“The number of people has been increasing recently.” Hijikata commented as he scanned the surroundings.
“Everyone is just curious.” Saito said. “The shogun, Tokugawa Iemochi has been invited to come to Kyoto to meet the emperor. It’s a wonder that everyone wants to see it.”
“We need to be more alert.” Hijikata said. “There are possibility that ronins or opposing clans were planning to wreak havoc.”
Horikawa scanned the surroundings, merchants and farmers selling their goods to the people. Adult with little children walking around the street and the womenfolk having their gossip whenever they could.
“H-Hey, that’s my money!” It was then they heard some commotion.
“Listen! If you want to cross this street, you’ll have to pay us to pass.” Some gruff voice said.
“But those are the money I had. Without it, I cannot buy food for my children.”
“Hah, if you won’t hand in the money, then we will gut your stomach as an exchange!”
“N-No, please don’t!”
“Looks like something has happen. Saito, Koyu, let’s go investigate it!” Hijikata called out. The three of them quickly rushed to the scene where a crowd has gathered.
“It looks like there were ronins demanding money from the civilians.” Saito said.
“You there!” Hijikata stepped towards the ronins who were about to attack a defenceless man. “Leave him alone, would you? Also, you have no right to ask for money.”
“Aren’t you some bold fellow?” One of the ronins, the one with the smug grin mocked back at Hijikata. “This is none of your business. Interfere, and we will kill you.”
“I think it’s the opposite.” Hijikata retorted back. “To threaten innocent people, you guys are the lowest of the low. Why don’t you just go somewhere else? Don’t start a ruckus here!”
“Who’s the one to talk?!” The second ronin yelled. This man has a scar on his cheek and with his tone, he must be the leader of the group. “You really want my blade to cut through your throat don’t you?” He then drew out his blade and attempted to cut down Hijikata, but Saito was quick to react and went to parry the attack.
“I usually won’t resort to violence. But since you are itching for a fight, so I shall grant you.” He then unsheathed his sword and started clashing with the ronin. The other two ronin joined their leader and intended to cut down Hijikata but Saito managed to block them. One of the ronin turned his attention to Horikawa, whom he believed was Hijikata’s followers. Horikawa, already prepared his sword welcomed the challenge without any hesitation.
Hijikata and Saito managed to do a short work on their opponents. The ronins were knocked out like a light. Horikawa has a bit of a difficulty due to his height. He managed to thrust the ronin aside but the ronin took this as a distraction and quickly ran into an alleyway with the money he had looted. Horikawa quickly gave chase, ignoring Hijikata’s call.
The fight continued as they ran into an open space in the alleyway. All of a sudden, a group of ronins sprang into action from where they were hiding. Horikawa scanned his surrounding and estimated that there should be about five of them. It must be the ronin’s plan after all, to lure him into a secluded area so that his gang could ambush him. He tried to fight through the crowd to escape but they surrounded him and his short sword isn’t going to help him much on clearing a pathway.
“What a fool you are!” One of them said. “Without your comrades at your back, cutting you is just a piece of cake!” He expected to be cut down, shattered into nothingness but the pain did not come and he heard a familiar voice entered the scene.
“I don’t like the look you’re giving me.” He heard someone said followed by sword clashes and the next thing that followed is the ronin lying unconscious on the ground. He looked up to see the familiar tattered white hood swirling before him. Another person joined into the fray, in just a flash, another ronin soon fell unconscious. “This is your punishment for not understanding elegance.” That dramatic voice tone that reminded him so much of his partner.
“That should be all of them.” The first one sheathed his sword when all the ronins were finally defeated. “None of them suffered any major injury so it shouldn’t be a problem.” He finally turned towards Horikawa before asking, “Are you alright, brother?”
“Kasen-san, brother, h-how… You guys are here too?” Horikawa blinked in disbelief as he stood up.
“I could say that we are surprised to see you here too.” Kasen said. “Are you alone?”
“Apparently, I got taken into the Shinsengumi.” He explained. “Two weeks ago I met Yamatonokami-san. He told me he will be roaming the streets of Kyoto searching for clues.”
“We did met Yamatonokami too.” Yamanbagiri said. “But he refused to stay with us and decided to go on his own. He seemed to be keeping something in mind.”
“We have to trust him. I’m sure he has his own reason for doing so.” Kasen said. “Besides, we have other things to worry about. Things that are not elegant the least…”
“Have you guys found anything yet? Any signs of the Time Retrograde Army?” Horikawa asked.
“There are some disturbance here and there in the streets of Kyoto, but nothing of a big deal at the moment.” Yamanbagiri replied. “We have been scouting the area for quite a while now. The possibilities of the retrograde army altering history in this era is quite significant but we don’t know how far the extent is going to be.”
“Koyu, are you over there?” Hijikata’s voice can be heard from the alley. They must be not far away.
“Is that what they called you, Koyu?” Kasen snickered a bit at the name. “Hijikata-san must have some odd taste. It’s no wonder Izuminokami failed at being elegant.”
“That’s not the right time to talk about this, Kasen.” Yamanbagiri chided him. “We better leave before they come here.”
“W-Wait, aren’t you going to tell me more about what you have discovered?” Horikawa called out.
“We will explain to you some other time. We can’t draw too much attention from the people here.” With that, Kasen and Yamanbagiri quickly left the scene by jumping onto the roof. Horikawa watched them left before he quickly went to find Hijikata.
“There you are. You really made us worry.” Hijikata said when he finally met them. “I know you can fight but don’t run off on your own or you’ll only give us more trouble.”
“I-I’m sorry… I just acted without thinking.” He stuttered, before handing the pouch of money back to Hijikata. “I got this b-back from the ronin just now… We should return it to that man.”
They gave back the money to the man back at the market place. The man, however, didn’t show any sign of gratitude when he received his money. Instead, he just left the scene with his money in hand, as if he was afraid of them. Horikawa understood what it meant, ronin were very much feared of in this time, with how they often boasted their power to the point that their morality is corrupted. It was just as how people said, a shame to the samurai clan. It had brought a lot of bad reputation to many samurais as many people now believe all ronins are barbarians despite some of them carrying out good deeds.
“What barbarians, killing and attacking people in the open public.”
“They think they could do anything they pleased, shame on them!”
“Why didn’t the shogun do anything to them?! They should know by now that swords should not be allowed in places like this.”
“If the shogun dispose them, it means they surrender too. I doubt they would just let go their power.”
The rest of the patrol just went on as normal but the public who witnessed the event just now began to shun them. Hijikata was not pleased with how things turned out, of course. Peace seemed to return in the area, no ronins causing trouble to the people, so that is one good thing to take note of. It would take some time for the people to accept the roshigumi.
Once they returned back to Yagi Gennojo, Hijikata dismissed him and he went to give his report to Kondo. Horikawa returned back to his room, left with his own entertainment. Even though it’s just afternoon, he was already exhausted to the point of collapse. He laid on the floor, eyes gazing at the ceiling, lost in his own thoughts.
When he finally felt he had enough energy to get up, he sat up and went to reach for the drawers. Most of his items were still securely intact within their storage. It was then he noticed his time travelling device was… glowing? The same thing happened on the day he first arrived at the Shinsengumi, what could it mean? He reached out to take the device out of its storage space, only to notice that there was a piece of paper underneath it. It wasn’t there when he last checked, who could’ve placed it there?
Taking out the piece of paper, he then began to scan on its content.
I hope my letter reaches you. If you do received my letter, it means that your device is working properly and you’re doing fine. Maybe you haven’t heard of it yet, but Master recently installed a new feature in our time travelling device that allows us to send letters to each other for better communication purpose. It works as long as we are in the same era and area.
To simplify things, I have been together with Kasen and Hachisuka during the entire time. We live in an inn just at the outskirt of Kyoto. We did discover the time retrograde army doing things around Kyoto area but we manage to dispatch them without much problem so history hasn’t been altered yet.
But considering that they destroyed the citadel, we believe that there may be darker force at play or some other motive behind such attacks. We had no clue yet on when and where the retrograde army is going to strike, but if they do, it will bring disaster to everyone. Hachisuka deduced that they might be targeting the shogun and intended to end the sword era earlier than what was recorded in history.
We have been working hard to stop the course of history from altering. You should be aware of the presence of the retrograde army as well. We have to protect history, for the sake of Master and everyone. I will inform you if we made any new discovery.
He finished reading the letter before he let himself fell onto the floor, facing towards the ceiling, once again in thoughts. There were a few things he needed to sort. Yamanbagiri, Kasen and Hachisuka were together in Kyoto, at least that’s a good news. The issue is that the Time Retrograde Army’s motive is still unknown and their army were at large. It is true that their intention is to change the course of history but for what purpose and how they would benefit from it, those are questions that no one knows.
Putting Yamanbagiri’s letter aside, Horikawa wondered just how long he is going to keep his façade. With how the situation seems, if he don’t act fast, the retrograde army is going to launch their attacks at any time. But he don’t have much freedom in here, not when the roshigumi was keeping him holed up. There has to be a way, for him to have more freedom in moving about while not rousing the suspicions of the roshigumi…
Okita, Hijikata and Kondo are the youngest children in their family. Hijikata's family was considered to be somewhat wealthy, since his family produce medicine and are merchants. Being the youngest of 10 children, Hijikata was said to be spoiled by the family when he was young and he was quite mean to those outside his circle of family and friends, which is why people joked that Hijikata is better being mean.
Chapter 5: Howling of the Wolf
This shouldn't happen at this time of the day, but it happened. Learning about this, the Touken Danshi set out to right history from rewriting.
Horikawa let out a sigh as he sat by the porch overlooking the courtyard of Yagi Gennojo. Some of the roshigumi members were busy practicing at the courtyard. Things had not been going well for the roshigumi, more like it’s something between the captains. Serizawa and his group went drinking at Shimabara and things quickly went ugly when Serizawa got drunk and caused trouble to the people, frightening the civilians. At the same time, someone has reported that Tonouchi was seen doing some suspicious activities lately with a certain clan of samurai.
He could care less about such things. All that matters to him is that things are following the course of history so everything is doing fine, right? Serizawa and Tonouchi will have to die eventually so that the Shinsengumi can officially be recognized. But then, he couldn’t help but felt something tugging at the strings of history, as if it is a calm before the storm. Yamatonokami had informed him that some retrograde army were spotted in areas around Kyoto Palace, so there are possibilities that they intended to ruin the meeting between the shogun and the emperor. That is something to worry about, the roshigumi never directly protect the shogun at this time, so how would things turn out, he can never tell.
“You there…” He heard a voice. Horikawa quickly snapped out from his thought and looked around but all he could see were the ronins who were practicing their sword skill, no one was talking to him. How could…
“Something about you is weird...” That voice continued, “You really look like that sword Hijikata-san owned…” It took him a while to notice, it then dawned on him that the voice actually came from the sword that was placed not too far away from him.
“A-Are you… Talking to me?” He voiced his thoughts, keeping it low so as not to rouse people’s attention.
The sword spirit gaped in surprise. “You… Can see me?” Unlike Horikawa, he was just a spirit that nobody could see or hear. His long dark hair was tied in a low ponytail that rested at the right side of his shoulder, part of his face was covered by his long bangs.
“Well, my eyes is a bit different compared to other people.” Horikawa explained. “You must be Saito’s sword, Kijinmaru Kunishige right?” The sword spirit rose his eyebrows, his face painted with shock. How did this person know about him? “I have heard of your maker before. Kunishige is quite a notable swordsmith and I have met few of those swords he made.”
“It’s an honour that you recognized me…” Kijinmaru uttered before something hit him. “Wait a minute, you claim that you lost your memories and do not remember anything. H-How could you actually remember meeting my kin and my swordsmith?”
This time, it was his turn to be shocked. If he did not come up with a proper cover, this sword spirit is going to have his cover blown. “I-I… I saw one o-of Kunishige’s sword on display a few days ago when I go for patrol…”
“You’re lying.” Kijinmaru cut his words swiftly. “You only went to patrol once, and that was with my master and Hijikata-san. And we didn’t come across any sword shop or smiting shop.” Horikawa was left speechless, his cover completely blown by now. “Who are you? Not only you’re mysterious, but you can also talk to me. You must be something that is not the same as my master… And what is your intention to the roshigumi? Are you an enemy in disguise?”
He remained silent for a moment. Kijinmaru showering questions at him like rain that he don’t know where to begin. He has to give Kijinmaru the credit, that quiet yet attentive behaviour surely took after Saito, notably the most mysterious but loyal member of the Shinsengumi. He darted an eye to the courtyard, everyone was busy with their own chores so they won’t be noticing him spilling out his secrets or caught him talking to himself. He decided that he should be honest to the sword spirit, since they cannot actually talk to their master, he is sure that his secret would be kept safe with Kijinmaru.
“It’s… It’s quite a long story.” He said, trying to find a lead to start his conversation. “But you’re right after all, I’m actually lying about me losing my memories.” Kijinmaru gasped at the revelation. “But I don’t mean to harm anyone, it’s just that my mission do not allow me to let anyone know about my true identity. Because if I did that, it could jeopardize everyone.”
“So… You’re saying that you’re helping us?” Kijinmaru quirked a brow, pondering his words. “How are we to believe in every word you say?”
“It’s up to you to decide whether you want to believe me or not. I-I cannot… I can’t ask for your help. It’s too selfish.” Horikawa said. “There’s something I need to protect… That includes everyone here, which is why I have to stay until the end, even if it means lying to everyone.”
“Everyone has their reason.” Kijinmaru said. “Only a person himself can make his own judgement and choices. If this is the path you’ve chosen, then you have to believe in it and continue to walk on it. But for me, I’m just a sword… I don’t have the right to choose, the only thing I can do is follow my master’s desire.”
“Then promise me that you’ll protect Saito-san until the end, would you?”
“It’s not like I could say no to that. I will do anything for the sake of my master.” Horikawa managed a forced smile. Someday, Kijinmaru will see the end of the sword era and let reality sank in, which is probably quite a blow for most swords.
“Did you hear that? Tonouchi was found dead at Yojo Bridge.”
“Not that I was anywhere close to him, but then I can’t help but felt suspicious about his group of followers.”
“But don’t you find it weird? Just months ago one died of disease, then few weeks ago, another was assassinated. It couldn’t be just mere coincidence right?”
“It’s obvious anyway. Since they were the smallest group faction, disagreement between factions could cause them to be targeted. I wouldn’t be surprise if it is one of our men who did this.”
“I heard that he was sent as a spy by the imperialist group to foil the roshigumi.”
“Whatever it is, please be alert at all times. Everyone here have their way with the sword, a single wrong step could cost your life, so please be careful with what you are doing and what you are saying.”
It all happened in one night. One of the roshigumi commander, Tonouchi Yoshio was killed, and the rest of his group either died or left the roshigumi. There had been debate that the killer was among them but no one presses further when no more evidence can be brought out. In the end, the incident was in the back of their mind and everyone continued their routine as if nothing has happened. But Horikawa can sensed that the tension between Kondo and Serizawa’s faction has escalated, no doubt that with one faction gone, one of them would try to gain the upper hand to control the group, there is a point where there can only be one victor.
Yamatonokami and Yamanbagiri both gave him update on recent issues in Kyoto. The retrograde army began appearing more frequent but they managed to stop history from being altered. However, the real issue is that with the meeting between the shogun and the emperor approaching, Kyoto has been at unrest. Both of them warned him that the retrograde army could be targeting the meeting, in worst case, killing the emperor or the shogun to stir riots in the country. But then again, the roshigumi didn’t protect anyone in those time, so it won’t be likely they will be in action on that day, it would be hard for him to leave the group just to carry out his mission, he need to find a way to sneak out from the headquarters when the time come.
“Hey, the shogun is coming!” Someone from the crowd called out. The main street of Kyoto were crowded with people who came to witness the shogun parade. The imperial army and the shogun subordinated formed two line across the street, forming a barricade that prevented the public from getting close to the shogun procession.
“Until the end, it wasn’t us to protect the shogun…” Hijikata mumbled as the roshigumi group watched the procession from afar. Here they are, at Kyoto, yet they have no authority, no right to call themselves the shogun’s guard.
“Coming here is just a waste after all.” Serizawa complained. “I don’t see we have any purpose of being here. I’m just gonna go back.”
The group hence returned back to Yagi Residence, Serizawa group immediately returned back to their own quarters but Kondo’s group decided to have some leisure time at the porch. “Maan, I can’t believe I actually got so close to the shogun.” Heisuke exclaimed.
“It is a lifetime experience to see the shogun on the street.” Shinpachi stated. “Somehow, I am inspired to work harder for the shogunate.”
“As regal as how it may seem, yet our dream of serving the shogunate seems so far away. It’s like we can never reach it at all.” Okita teased.
“Well, the Aizu is still considering our proposal.” Kondo reassured. “I am sure it won’t be long we will be receiving a reply from them.”
“At worst case, we will be forced on our own.” Hijikata said, his tone with a bit hint of bitterness.
“Well, if we really want to serve the shogunate, the easiest way is to train ourselves and get stronger so that they looked up to us, right?” Harada winked as he picked up his spear. “Who’s gonna join me in training today?” Everyone jumped in enthusiasm as they headed off to the sparing ground. “Koyu-kun, will you be joining us?”
While Horikawa wished he could really join the group in sparing, but he had other things to attend to, and he can’t get too close to them or it will jeopardize his plan. “Sorry, but I had things I need to attend to. I will excuse myself first.” Hijikata baited a suspicions eye at him but questioned no further. He was aware of that but he just bowed and took his leave back to his room.
There was a letter for him when he returned back to his room, from Yamanbagiri. They had confirmed that the retrograde army is off to siege Nijo Castle by tonight and they will be there to stop them. He must help them, but he need to plan his move carefully, lest he got caught then he probably won’t make it out alive.
The day passed without being eventful, night eventually settled on the city and everyone retired for the night. Horikawa, found himself sleepless, ended up sitting on the veranda waiting for the right moment to make his move.
“Hey, what are you doing this late at night?” Hijikata called out.
“I-I just can’t sleep…” He stammered. “So I ended up wandering about to ease myself…”
“You have been wandering around recently as if you are one of us, don’t you?” Hijikata squinted. “But don’t forget that you’re not one of us and don’t you get too comfortable with us, or we will someday have you if we found out you’re not with your word.”
He quickly looked away, avoiding eye contact with his former master. “S-Sorry… I didn’t meant to spy on you guys…” He tried to come up with a proper explanation. “It’s… It’s just that everyone here had been so caught up with some problems, whether it’s personal or about the roshigumi, I just felt that I need to help everyone out.”
“We appreciate that, but don’t you have things you should worry about as well?” Hijikata retorted back. “Your memories, have you at least regained some of it?”
“Ah… About that…” He gazed up into the night sky, pretending that he was trying to remember something. “Just what could I possibly gain from remembering the past? I think instead of trying to remember, I should go ahead and start anew with my life.”
“So you’re just giving up on the past?”
“No… I believe that there will be a time and place when I will remember certain things, but for now, I should focus on my life ahead.” He answered. “Life can be very fleeting and short, the end of one’s life could happen at anytime. Therefore, I realized that I have to pursue my dreams before I left any regrets with my life.”
“It’s true that life can be very unpredictable.” Hijikata agreed. “When I was young, I thought that I will end up peddling medicine for the rest of my lifetime. People would laugh at us and say we will always remain as farmers, there’s no way we can be a true samurai.”
“But you did it, don’t you? You all created a path of your own.”
“Even now, we were still being despised by the people. At first, we came to Kyoto to protect the Shogun, but then it was revealed to be a scheme to make us work for the court. The ronin groups were eventually disbanded and returned to Edo, but we decided to stay and hope that we could make a name here. Yet again, things appeared so bleak in this time, the public feared the ronins, and it’s not like the shogun could recognize those who were of farmer’s origins.”
“It won’t be easy. But I believe the time will come and a path will soon open to you.” Horikawa said. “With your determination, you can do it.”
“Come to think of it, you seemed to have confidence with us.” Hijikata squinted. “When I first met you, I felt like I had met you somewhere before but I just can’t place it…” Horikawa tensed up internally. This can’t be happening, right? Hijikata never knew who he was, even if it was just the feeling of déjà vu, he shouldn’t recognize him as a blade.
“Hijikata-san!” Someone suddenly called out. “There you are. I have been looking for you everywhere.”
“Gen-san, is there something wrong?”
“We received a report from Nijo Castle saying that ronins from Choshuu were attacking the castle.” Inoue reported. “Some of us decided to head off to the castle to stop the ronins.”
“How can it be?!” Hijikata exclaimed. “The Choshuu actually invaded the castle! This is bad!” He immediately stood up from his spot and followed Inoue to get preparations. “Hurry up! Gather some of our capable men!”
Horikawa could only be left shocked at the news. The ronins were attacking the shogun at Nijo Palace? No, neither the emperor nor the shoguns were attacked at this day, the meeting was carried out peacefully, how could… Is someone pulling the strings from behind? Something was wrong, very wrong!
A handful of men had soon gathered at the porch as Kondo and Serizawa gave orders. “Listen up, we received report saying that there were ronins attacking the palace. While we do not fully know the situation, please be aware of your surrounding and listen to our orders, don’t start out a fight on your own!”
“Now, now.” Serizawa interrupted. “If they were showing no mercy, why not we do the same? After all, keeping those Choshuu ronins alive will only create more trouble to the shogunate.”
“Serizawa has a point there.” Yamanami agreed. “Don’t hold back if they were serious about killing you.”
“We should head off already! We have to stop the riots from breaking out in Kyoto.” Hijikata said. “Come everyone! We marched to the castle!” Letting out a cry, the group of ronins headed off into the street towards Nijo Castle.
Meanwhile, Horikawa had snuck out of the Mibu before the group left. The retrograde army is definitely behind this, he do not know their motives, but he need to stop them or the course of history is ruined. “Sorry, I’m late.” Yamanbagiri, Kasen, Hachisuka and Yamatonokami had gathered outside the castle the moment he arrived.
“You finally came.” Kasen scoffed. “You know it’s not good to be late. You kept us waiting and we have to clean up all this mess.”
“Go easy on him.” Yamatonokami said. “He was being confined in the roshigumi headquarters, sneaking out of there is no easy feat.”
“We can talk about that later.” Yamanbagiri said, his voice flat. “There are things we need to take care of first.”
“How’s the situation?” Horikawa asked.
“As what we expected, the retrograde armies were spotted in Nijo Castle compound.” Yamanbagiri answered, before pointing towards one of the castle’s entrance where a group of unconscious men can be seen laying. “Those men were just knocked out, their wounds aren’t something to be concern of, but it’s the retrograde army motive that is making us worried.”
“They were targeting the shogun, it seems.” Hachisuka said. “But according to what was recorded in history, nothing happened to them in this time. The meeting carried out without disruption.”
“So all we have to do is to get rid of them before they entered the castle?” Yamatonokami grinned a little as he rested one of his hand on the sword hilt. “Let’s make this short and quick then.”
“No wait, there’s something else I have to tell you all.” Horikawa quickly interrupted. “The Mibu roshigumi, they were heading towards this place.”
“What exactly has happened?” Yamanbagiri asked.
“It must be their motive.” Horikawa explained. “They gave fake news to the roshigumi in order to lure them to Nijo Castle. The retrograde army probably laid in wait to attack them when they arrive.”
“The roshigumi were being tricked into coming here?!” Yamatonokami exclaimed in shock. “They’re really serious on killing them!”
“It seems like things are getting harder.” Hachisuka grimaced. “What should we do then?”
“One thing for certain, the roshigumi was not involved in the meeting between the shogun and the emperor. And nothing has ever happened to them in this time.” Yamanbagiri said. “It is possible the retrograde army wanted to eliminate the roshigumi so that the Shinsengumi will not form.”
“It could also be possible that they want to make a scene with the impression that the roshigumi stormed Nijo Palace but was killed in action.” Kasen deduced. “Whatever that could happen, it is not going to favour the course of history.”
“Then we have to stop both the retrograde army and the roshigumi from entering Nijo Palace, right?” Yamatonokami asked, receiving a confirmation from the rest. “Horikawa and I will take care of the retrograde armies in the palace. The three of you guard the area surrounding Nijo Palace and keep the roshigumi from entering the castle.”
“Good thing we have decided to come up with proper disguise.” Hachisuka said, referring to the black clothing he was wearing, even Kasen had a cloak to hide his hair. “Though I kinda hate wearing this.”
“Your armour and appearance is too glaring.” Yamanbagiri shot back. “We need to look like some sort of ronins to lure the roshigumi away from the palace. And Yamatonokami and Horikawa best not have interaction with their former master, so they will have to take care of the enemies inside while we deal the outside.”
“Should we begin our assault?” Kasen asked, one hand pointing out towards the distance. “I can see some members of the roshigumi advancing towards the castle.”
“Well then, it’s time we get into work.” The group hence split up to their respective position as they worked to stop the time retrograde army. Yamatonokami led him into the garden courtyard where there was a secret entrance into the castle.
“There’s quite a number of them.” Horikawa commented as he scanned the enemies surrounding the compound. “With just the two of us, we were largely outnumbered.”
“It can’t be helped.” Yamatonokami said, as he unsheathed his sword to cut down one of the enemies. “We can’t let them get close to the roshigumi and the shogun.”
On the other side, the roshigumi were charging towards Nijo Castle. “What are all these people outside the castle?”
“They’re the castle guards.” Someone said. “The ronins must have attacked them to break through their defence to get into the castle.”
“That means, they must’ve gotten into the castle!” Hijikata cursed. “We must stop them before they laid a finger on the shogun or the emperor!”
“No, look over there!” Harada pointed towards another direction where they noticed a shadowy figure running away from the scene. “That’s one suspicious looking guy!”
“I will go after him!” Kondo said. “Nagakura, Harada, Gen-san, come with me!” The four of the sprinted off to chase after the runaway culprit while the rest pressed on towards the castle.
Seeing Yamanbagiri lure some of the men away, Kasen and Hachisuka took this as their cue to work with their plan. The two of them split up, but they did not run away from the castle like Yamanbagiri did, they ran along the castle gate. The roshigumi caught sight of them and split up to chase after them.
“Too slow!” Horikawa cried when he took down an enemy wakizashi. Yamatonokami slashed and sliced an enemy uchigatana. The two of them then worked together to take down an enemy tachi. A tantou attempted to sneak attack on Yamatonokami but Horikawa quickly intercept the attack and took him down. “Sorry, but I can play dirty too!”
“Be careful. There’s a lot of them.” Yamatonokami warned. “Lose your head and die!” He yelled and cut down a tachi.
“I saw one of them running in that direction!” Niimi said as he pointed at a certain direction. “He could’ve tried to enter using a secret passage.” Hachisuka took the cue as he made an appearance in front of the group of roshigumi before running into another alley. “He had run away, after him!” The group of ronins went after Hachisuka, but Serizawa stopped in his steps.
“Something’s the matter?” Okita asked. “We are supposed to go and stop those rebels.”
“That may be true.” Serizawa mumbled. “But don’t you think it is weird that there were only few of them? Not only that, they seem to be running in circle around the castle but they had never ran into it, isn’t that a bit weird?”
“Serizawa-san, are you saying that we should head off into the castle instead of chasing after them?” Okita looked around. “It makes sense, right? It takes more than three men to finish of these number of guards. They could’ve just been decoy to attract our attention.”
“I expect much from a genius samurai like you.” Serizawa grinned. “But you still got a long way to go.”
“Ora ora ora!” Yamatonokami cried as he cut down another enemy uchigatana. “I won’t back down here! Don’t you think you could stop the roshigumi!” The enemy he was facing let out a growl before it suddenly backed off. “Come back here!” He went after it, only to realize that it was heading outside, where the roshigumi were at. “Don’t you go there!”
“Yamatonokami-san, you go ahead and stop them!” Horikawa called out. “I will hold them down here.” They exchanged an understanding nod before Yamatonokami went to pursue the retrograde army. “Just don’t do anything reckless in front of your former master.” He murmured before he blocked a tantou attack.
He made short work on the tantou before he continued with his attack. The enemy tachi dodged his attack and attempted to escape onto the roof. He went after the enemy, only to get ambushed by two enemy tantous. He managed to defeat one but the other tantou was faster and he only got to defend himself, the tachi hence used his distraction to attack him. He was able to avoid the attack barely, but then he lost his footing and fell of the roof, the tachi dived down and attempted to use the momentum to stab him. He braced for the attack, but then he saw a figure appeared from above and slashed the tachi from behind, killing it instantly. Horikawa landed on the ground, his feet hitting the soft sand of the compound. He scanned around, trying to search for the figure who had probably saved him, but only silence greeted him, no one is seen. He let out a sigh, that person looked kind of familiar to him, but he don’t have an answer to that.
“So they’re here after all!” Serizawa let out a laugh when enemies appeared. “You guys have the nerve to attack the palace of all places.”
“Serizawa-san, they don’t look like humans at all!” Okita exclaimed when they got a clearer view of the enemies. The retrograde army gazed at them before they began their assault. The two of them managed to take down few of the enemies but they kept coming. “These guys are really serious on stopping us, don’t they?”
“Lose your head and die!” Yamatonokami came charging in and cut down an enemy yari. He quickly rushed in and saved Okita from an enemy tantou, followed with a slash that killed the enemy leader.
“You steal my kill again, Okusawa-kun.” Okita sounded a bit surprise to see him. “I hope that you’re alright fighting those monsters all by yourself.”
Yamatonokami stayed silent for a moment as he tried to catch his breath. One of his hand reached out to the cloth that covered his eyes, making sure that it was secure in place so that he Okita won’t see his expression at the moment. “I-I… I’m just doing my job to watch over the shogun.”
“You’re guarding the castle?” Serizawa quirked his brow. “There’s no way the shoguns will hire such lowly samurais like you.”
Yamatonokami gulped a little, hoping that they didn’t see his panicked expression. “It’s just one day that I saved the shogun’s member by coincidence, so they asked me to watch over the castle.” His fist grasped onto the haori that was draped over his shoulder. “I have taken care of the ronins. They didn’t harm anyone in the castle, everything is fine.”
Serizawa grunted. “If you could’ve taken care of it, what is the point that the report was sent to us?” He turned around as he mumbled something, “So much for this trouble!”
“What a waste.” Okita joked lightly. “To think that we come all the way here to protect the shogun but only to do nothing.” He turned to glance at Yamatonokami as if he was giving a glare. “Remember this, Okusawa-kun. We’re not going to forgive you for stealing our kill again, someday I am going to break your streaks.”
“W-We will see then…” Yamatonokami bowed, trying to keep himself calm. He turned away and intended to return back to the castle but Serizawa called out to him.
“Okusawa, that’s your name right?” He asked, Yamatonokami only nodded back in reply. “I like that haori you’re wearing.” He said, referring to the clothing draped on his back. “Such a fine blue colour, just like the sky, but then again, it seemed to hint death…” He trailed off for a moment before he finally faced Yamatonokami again. “Someday we will meet again, in the place where life and death matter, mark my words.” After finishing his speech, he left the spot with Okita following him, Yamatonokami was left to ponder on his words.
“Damn it, we missed them!” Hijikata cursed as his group marched back to Mibu. “We almost had them.”
“They seemed very good at running away.” Kondo commented. “They kept turning and running all over the street just to confuse us.”
“No worries, those ronins had been taken care.” Serizawa was the last one to arrive. “Apparently, the castle guards inside the palace took care of them and chased them away. Those we saw running away were probably got scared because they were unable to carry out their mission.”
“How can you be sure of this?” Hijikata questioned. “There’s a reason they reported to us about the invasion.”
“That guard was an odd one.” Okita commented. “But we had checked the surrounding and there were no signs of any stray ronins, so we concluded that they had been taken care of.”
“And there goes our chance to make a name…” Hijikata let out a sigh. “I thought the shogun could at least acknowledge us if we made a contribution.”
“Stay sharp, Hijikata.” Yamanami said. “Although we lost our chance, we must also be alert at all times. People could use fake reports to set us up and get rid of us.”
“And what do you know if you don’t take the gamble?” Hijikata retorted back. “I’m sick getting stuck here with no end of idling. If we don’t make a name soon, we will soon ran out of money and our dreams of staying here will slip from our grip.”
“It seems like our plan works. No one was injured tonight.” Yamanbagiri said. “But that would mean we have to be more alert in the future. They could possibly carry out more of their atrocities soon.”
“The troublesome thing is that Kyoto will soon be in flames. It will be even more chaotic if they were to act in those time.” Horikawa said.
“Regardless of what is going to happen, we should all be careful.” Hachisuka reminded, referring to Yamatonokami and Horikawa. “Especially the two of you.”
“I should go back.” Horikawa said. “If there’s any finding, I will inform you guys.” With that, the group split up and went with their respective chores at hand. In the dull lighting of the night, it seemed so bleak without the moon’s lighting, the same as how the fate of the sword warriors were facing now. With no place to call home and wandering across the street in different time zone, there was no end to the enemies attack, no end of war and bloodshed, it pained him greatly, but what else is there to do but to continue fighting and walking ahead, until the end they were just swords who had to witness the pain inflicted by time itself.
The roshigumi was formed by Kiyokawa Hachiro and initially has more than 200 men and with the purpose of protecting the shogun prior to the meeting with the emperor. But Kiyokawa was an imperialist and had secretly sent a petition so that the roshigumi served the court. His scheme was found out and many people discontented and hence disbanded, remaining only 19 of them which were the founder of the Shinsengumi. There were many arguments regarding Tonouchi Yoshio's action within the roshigumi. Many media suggested that his group was sent as a spy by the imperialist so that they could disband the remaining roshigumi, whether he was forced or volunteered to do so is not known. That was then internal strife happened between the 3 groups, Tonouchi's faction being the smallest in number (there were only 4 people in their group) were the first to be targetted, one died of disease shortly, one was ordered to commit seppuku and one desserted. The killer of Tonouchi was also largely debated, most stated that it was Kondo, but some suggested Serizawa and Okita could also possibly killed him.
Chapter 6: Meaning of the Blade
If it's a blade I picked up, then it's the road I've decided to walk down, no matter how hard it was. As long as I get to swing my blade, I shall bring honor to the name of the samurai.
“A petition to Aizu?”
“That’s Serizawa-san’s idea.” Kondo said. “Since Aizu was the one in charge of security within Kyoto, we may ask them to take us under their wing, as well as some financial support.”
“That guy actually made such suggestion?” Hijikata raised his brows at those words. “I never thought that Serizawa was actually concern about us.”
“I was even surprised he would come up with such ideas.” Yamanami commented. “He got more credits than we thought.”
“But it’s a good thing right?” Kondo commented. “There’s a chance we will be officially recognized by the shogun.”
Hijikata let out a huff. “I still don’t get what Serizawa-san had in mind…”
For days in the roshigumi, Horikawa spent most of his time helping out with chores and sparring to keep himself sharp. Few of the roshigumi members had gotten used of him and treated him as if he was part of the group and would asked him to join them in during sparring session or having a meal. It’s not like he would decline their friendly offer, but he had to keep himself at bay, from saying the right thing to trying not to get too close to the people. He was a sword from the future, as much as he wished to rewrite history and change the fate of the people, what has happened in the past has to be in the past, someone from the future like him has no right to interfere with it.
Yamanbagiri and Yamatonokami kept him up to date about the movement of the retrograde army. But then, not much motive has been covered, and neither was news of other Touken Danshi or their master. The good thing was that history has not been altered and everything seemed to be at peace, for a moment. There was a glimmer of hope for the roshigumi, it won’t be long where they were to rise to power. Horikawa mused, recalling the times where the roshigumi members burst into bouts of cheers and glee when the roshigumi was finally recognized and acknowledged as servant to the shogunate. Hijikata was trying to hide it, but he could tell his master was glad at the outcome too, if only Kane-san was here to witness his master being happy.
It was one particular day when he finished practicing and decided to get some rest. Okita perked up when Hijikata showed up at the dojo and immediately asked to spar with him. Hijikata chided him for being too enthusiastic to which he joked that no one had seen Hijikata sparred ever since they arrived at Kyoto. Some of the members find it amusing and they decided to stay and watch the match unfold. Horikawa was among those spectators, wanting to relieve himself in the past when he practiced together with his master.
“I heard from Kijinmaru, but I didn’t expect him to resemble you.” He heard someone said. “It’s like… The resemblance is uncanny, except for the hair.”
“I had a weird feeling too the moment he wielded me.” Another voice said. “It’s a sensation that I had never felt. It’s like… he’s not human at all. And don’t forget that he can actually see and talk with Kijinmaru-san, so what is he actually?”
He turned around to see two figures standing by the doorway. They don’t seemed to be interested with the sparring but nobody seemed to care about them at all even when they chatted on. They seemed to notice he was looking at their direction and they immediately stopped talking.
“D-Did… Did he heard us talking about him?” The taller one asked.
“If he could talk to Kijinmaru-san, it is possible that he could hear us.” The shorter one that resembled him said.
Sounds of the bokken can be heard across the training hall as Hijikata and Okita exchanged blow. Horikawa, however, found his attention shifted to the two other swords who were in eye contact with him. He silently stood up and took his leave from the dojo, making his way out to the hallway where it was quieter.
“Kashuu-san… Horikawa-san…” He muttered. It felt weird to be addressing his younger self, more or less using his own name. The swords spirits heard him said their name and they revealed in a state of shock.
“H-How… How did you know our name?” Kashuu managed to say.
“I heard your masters talk about you.” He managed to explain. “And Hijikata even named me after his Kunihiro sword.”
“You seemed proud about it.” His younger self stated. “Hijikata-san was very excited when he first had me, it was his very first sword after all. Even though many people said I’m a fake Kunihiro, but as long as I get to serve my master well, that’s all that matters to me.”
“You seemed to take pride in your master.” Horikawa smiled. Until the end, he was still the same old self, wanting a master to recognize him as a true blade even though he may be a fake product. Sometimes he wondered if there was another chance to be loved again, but even then everything would eventually come to an end and he would ended up back in the ocean to be left forgotten by time…
“Come to think about it, when you first used me to save Hijikata-san…” His younger self continued. “From the moment you picked me up, I felt something familiar with you, as if you’re related to me… It’s very hard to explain, but you actually used me as if I am part of you, even though your hands were tied up.”
“I usually favour using a wakizashi for battle.” He explained, referring to the sword strapped on his waist. “It’s not a problem for me to wield it in battle.”
“I’m grateful that you saved Hijikata-san’s life, but what is your purpose for being here and pretending to have no memories?”
“I have to keep my profile as low as possible.” He answered. “The lesser the people that know about my motive and identity, the better for me to carry out my mission. I received word that there were some shadow organization intending to cause chaos in Kyoto and the roshigumi could’ve been one of its target.”
Something seemed to flash in Kashuu’s eyes as a sudden thought came into his mind. “Now that you mentioned it… Last month when the roshigumi went to defend Nijo Castle, Okita-kun met with some mysterious figure lingering outside the castle. I sense bloodlust in them but I can’t sense any conscience in them, and they don’t seem human at all. Could it be those people you’re talking about?”
“They could be one of them.” Horikawa told them. “But there could be more than just those numbers. They could be at anywhere and strike at anytime. If they were to carry out their plans, more people is going to suffer, we can’t let them do it.” The sword spirit seemed like they want to speak out, but he quickly continued, “As much as I appreciate the help, it’s better that I handle this myself. It was my duty to stop them, they won’t be able to stand against them.”
“That would means we have to train ourselves to become stronger so that we can protect our master.” Kashuu said. “If it’s a battle, I will definitely be there to protect Okita-kun.” Horikawa managed a smile. As bleak as the future seems, it seems clear to him, but he can’t help putting up a façade to reassure them that everything is going to be alright. He wondered, which one is more painful? To face reality, or the fate that holds for them? In the end, it is like a wound that can never heal no matter how much time has passed, continued to haunt them deep down.
It seems like it won’t be long for good news to arrive. “We received a word from the Aizu Clan. We have been granted an audience with the Aizu Military Commissioner.” Kondo made the announcement. “We will be meeting them two days later, everyone is invited to attend the meeting.”
Uproar soon broke out in the room. “Does that mean the shogun is finally going to recognize our effort?” Todo asked in excitement.
“Isn’t it great that we’re going to work for the shogun?” Harada piped up, obviously he can’t contain his excitement.
“We’re not finished yet.” Hijikata reprimanded them, the group quickly silenced at once. “This is an important event. Please remember to behave yourself in front of the shogun.” He seemed to shot a glare at Serizawa who was sitting next to him.
“It’s not only just boring discussion we will be having.” Kondo added on. “We will also be having some sparring matches. Please put on your best as we will show them the real samurai spirit.” There seemed to be another cheer, probably from Harada. Some of the few younger members were already arguing among themselves about who will be the best one out of them.
“I hope your men are capable on impressing Lord Aizu.” Niimi whispered to Kondo. “We don’t want something shameful in front of his lord.”
“We will show them.” Hijikata said confidently. “We will show them that people like us can have samurai spirit too.”
Discussion session with the Aizu clan can be a bit of a boring matter for hyperactive samurai. Horikawa have the same sensation as the rest as they waited patiently for the sparring match to begin. He remembered back then when he had to sit next to his master as he held meeting and negotiation with some people of higher up ranking. At first he found the topic boring, wanting for nothing but just sparring, but as time went on, he found himself growing more attentive and interested on the topics his master would talked on. Maybe it’s because he has to be a role model for Kane-san, the younger sword has the more tendency on causing trouble which he has to keep an eye on him.
What is more surprising to the roshigumi is that they were not the only group that was meeting the Aizu Clan today. Apparently, there is another group of samurai known as the Kyoto Mimawarigumi. And they seemed to share the same goal as the roshigumi, that is to gain recognition from the Aizu so that they could help in protecting safety within Kyoto. It’s obvious that the leader of the group, Sasaki Tadasaburo, isn’t very pleased with the roshigumi but he decided not to bring up an argument because he feared Serizawa’s temper.
At the end of the meeting was the moment where everyone was awaiting for, the sparring match demonstration. However, instead of the member spare among each other, the Aizu decided that the roshigumi members will fight against the Mimawarigumi as way to learn from each other while showing their skill.
The sparring match continued throughout the afternoon. Horikawa stood aside and watched the roshigumi members exchanged blows with the Mimawarigumi member. Saito and Nagakura took down their opponents without much feat. Yamanami used precise calculation to fool his opponent which gave him the advantage of winning the match. Heisuke, however, still has much to learn that he lost the battle that he complained, “It’s not my fault that I lost!” Hijikata was doing fine, from Horikawa’s judgement, but apparently his opponent decided to taunt him and caused him to lose his focus. It was an amusing sight for Horikawa, and probably an embarrassing one for Kane-san, to see Hijikata got tripped and knocked off in the midst of battle. Poor Hijikata, now he ended up with a bump on his forehead and Okita kept laughing at him for losing his cool and saying he will lost his head if it is a true battle.
Hijikata losing the match somewhat gave the members a good laugh that their throat gotten dry from laughing too much. Horikawa reached out to serve the members some tea the Aizu provided but to find the pot empty. Not wanting to trouble anyone, he picked up the pot and headed off to the kitchen to get some refill.
Upon reaching the backyard, he was surprised to see Yamatonokami with a Mimawarigumi member. “Y-Yamatonokami-san, what are you doing here?”
“I am just curious about this meeting between the roshigumi and the Aizu clan, so I decided to drop by and look around.” He said. “But I’m afraid things are not going as good as we thought.” He continued, referring to the Mimawarigumi member who collapsed on the ground.
“What happened to him?” Horikawa asked, he quickly bent down to check on the person. His face was pale and his lips were losing colour, but there was no wounds on his body.
“I believe the problem may be this.” Yamatonokami said, picking up the teacup containing some tea. “Someone could’ve poisoned this tea.”
“It can’t be!” Horikawa exclaimed. “If this was the tea they served, then everyone could’ve gotten poisoned too!”
“No, the poison could’ve been just added recently.” Yamatonokami said. “The Mimawarigumi just served a pot not too long ago and he is the first one to drink it and got poisoned.” He then reached out to feel his pulse on his neck. “After drinking it, he must’ve felt nauseous so he try to go to the bathroom but collapsed on the way.”
“That would mean this poison is lethally potent. We have to treat him quick!” As far as Horikawa know, nothing has happened in this time frame, so there’s no way someone could get poisoned in the Aizu Military Headquarters.
“I had cured his poison already.” Yamatonokami said. “But he won’t be able to wake up until few hours later. I won’t be surprised if the retrograde army was the one behind this.”
“The Time Retrograde Army,” Horikawa gasped. “Did you see them hiding somewhere around here?”
“It’s not like they could do their work that obviously under the daylight. They could’ve given the poison to someone else so they added it into the water.” Yamatonokami said. “It’s more like they were trying to make an impression that the roshigumi were trying to kill the Mimawarigumi. By doing this, the Aizu will cancel their sponsorship for the roshigumi and hence they will have no choice but to leave Kyoto.” There’s more he wanted to say, but they were cut when someone ran into the backyard.
“Kawada-san, Kawada-san, there you are!” The man called out when he spotted his comrade. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! It’s your turn to go into the sparring field.” It all changed when he saw his comrade laying down on the floor. “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Are you ok?”
“He collapsed just now.” Yamatonokami answered. “I’m afraid it’s the heat wave that’s making him sick. If he don’t get proper rest, he may not make it.”
The man cursed. “Damn, if Kawada is not going into battle, then who will go and mow those roshigumi? We have to prove to them that we are more capable than those ragtag people who claimed themselves to be samurai when they are just nothing but lowly scums.” Horikawa felt like he would have just go and slapped the man in the face but he is not going to voice it out, action speaks louder than words if there is anything to say.
“I will fight in his place.” Yamatonokami said, the two turned their attention to him.
“You? Fight for the Mimawarigumi?” The man perked his eyebrow. “Are you even one of us?”
“Does it matter?” Yamatonokami retorted back. “A person being a samurai is not because of their sword or family, is the spirit and attitude towards life that matters.” He stood up to his full height, one hand on his sword hilt. Maybe he didn’t notice it just now, but Horikawa realized that Yamatonokami dressed a bit differently today. His eyes were still concealed, but he now dons a plain kimono and his haori was gone, possibly to make himself blend into the crowd easier.
“W-Well, if you’re so confident about yourself…” The man mumbled. “I hope you have good skill with your sword.” He said before he left.
Once the man finally left, Horikawa stood up and went to whisper to Yamatonokami. “Are you really going to do it?”
“History has been altered.” Yamatonokami said. “It’s a good thing that we stopped the roshigumi and the Mimawarigumi from clashing too hard today, but it’s not over yet. We have to keep the course of history from changing.”
“True… If too many changes happen, then things may have gone out of hand.” Horikawa watched as Yamatonokami took his leave to the sparring ground before he went to ‘take care of things’ from behind.
Back at the sparring ground, Souji twirled his bokken a few times as he waited for his opponent to step into the field. “He’s taking forever.” He grumbled. “For one to actually test my patience, I will have to punish him for not being punctual.”
“Maybe there’s something he needs to take care of…” Yamanami chided. “Perhaps we can ask… Oh, there he is.”
Heisuke turned to the arena and try to take a better look of the person. “But him… Isn’t that… Okusawa-san?”
“How could it…” Hijikata muttered. “Is he part of the Kyoto Mimawarigumi?”
“Okusawa-kun, what are you doing here?” One of the Aizu officials asked. “You aren’t supposed to step in here. Please go back to where you’re assigned.”
“I apologized for intruding without your permission.” He bowed before them as a way of apology. “I received word that Kawada-san is not feeling well and is unable to join the battle. Will it trouble you if I were to fight in his place?”
Some of the officials whispered among each other as they debated among themselves about the sudden replacement. But one of them, the chief of security, Matudaira Katamori stood up and spoke, “I don’t see why not. You’re one of our skilled swordman and I’m sure you can help us on evaluating and assessing the abilities of the ronins.” Okusawa bowed back in appreciation.
“Okita-kun, are you alright with this?” Yamanami asked. “I would say that Okusawa-san looked a bit suspicious…”
“It’s not only that.” Hijikata added. “We did came across him few times whenever we’re doing our job.”
“It’s doesn’t matter.” Okita shrugged his shoulder. “What he did has nothing to do with our sparring session. Whoever my opponent is, I will gladly take him on.” He stood up before stepping into the sparring field. The two of them standing face to face with each other as they prepared their bokken and fighting stance before the referee gave them the permission to begin.
Okusawa made the first move by lunging towards Okita, Okita blocked his attack before going defensive. Okusawa then go for his weak spot, behind his back. Luckily Okita foresaw this and quickly dodged the attack.
“Nice one, Okusawa-kun.” Okita managed a laugh. “You’re one person always full of surprise, aren’t you?”
“I don’t deserve your praise.” Okusawa said as he thrusted towards Okita but Okita dodged it again before their blade clashed again.
“Well, since we’re here already. I might as well asked you some questions if you don’t mind.” Okita said as their blade clashed. “I must say, you skill with the blade is exceptional. Who taught you how to fight?”
Okusawa managed to shove Okita’s weight off him before he leaped onto the air to make his attack. “My master.” He answered briefly before his bokken landed on Okita’s.
“Your master, is it?” Okita let out a chuckle. “He had taught you well. I wish I could’ve learnt from him.”
Okusawa managed to let out a laugh, albeit a bit dark. “I’m afraid he is no longer with us. Even if it’s the other way round, I don’t think he will simple accept students. But if you really want to see him, maybe I can send you to where he is.”
Another clash. “As nice as your offer stands, I still have thing I have to do. So maybe do that after I’m done?” Both sides tightened their grip on their bokken before they launched at each other at the same time. Okita, however, managed to read Okusawa movement and dodged at the nick of the time before delivering a surprise sneak attack, hitting Okusawa on the waist. The judge called out, indicating that Okita had won the match.
“I lost… How shameful…” Okusawa grunted as he stood up. “It looks like I still have much to learn.”
“You’re not bad yourself.” Okita commented. “You almost took me down by surprise. Shall we spar again sometime?”
“… If we are to ever meet again…”
“Thanks for your hard work, everyone.” At the end of the day, the roshigumi returned back to the quarters feeling satisfied. “The Aizu clan was impressed by the display of strength and virtue all of you present. And I can tell that all of you are giving your best.”
“This is a good sign, isn’t it?” Yamanami smiled. “It’s thanks to all of you that our chances of being recognize has increased.”
“You should thank Serizawa-san in the first place.” Niimi spoke out. “We won’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”
“…You are right…” Hijikata mumbled low enough not to be heard.
“Can we celebrate tonight?” Harada piped up.
“I don’t see any reason to say no.” Kondo gave in. “We will celebrate our achievement for tonight, please enjoy your moment but try not to cause any ruckus to Yagi Gennojo.” Cheers broke out among the men as food and sake were being distributed. Everyone ended up spending their time drinking and partying late into the night.
Horikawa stifled a laugh as he watched Harada began dancing after getting drunk while some men cheered on. Hijikata took his leave, probably to get away from the alcohol since he don’t plan on getting drunk like Harada. He scanned the room for a moment to find that Okita was nowhere to be seen as well.
“Okita-kun, you’re out already?” Yamanami approached Okita who sat at the porch outside. “Usually you would join the crowd and party till late into the night. Is something bothering you?”
Okita turned his attention to Yamanami before heaving a sigh. “Well, maybe it’s something trivial. But I kept pondering on the battle we had today…”
“What’s wrong about it? You did well in the battle today.”
“No… It’s not about that… What I am talking about, is that Okusawa guy…”
“Now that you mentioned it, I admit that Okusawa-san can be a bit mysterious, but he has proven himself to be someone we could trust, is it not?” Yamanami said.
“I understand that, but what I mean is that I couldn’t help but felt myself related to him.” Okita said. “It may seem absurd but I felt familiar with him… It’s like I had met him somewhere before but that’s impossible because as far as my memories could recollect, I had never met anyone like him.” He buried his head in his arms as if a headache is plaguing him. “It’s funny, isn’t it? I thought I already had my resolve since I made the decision to come to Kyoto, but here I am pondering on some trivial matter.”
Yamanami managed a smile. “Sometimes it’s good to stop for a moment and sort through your life. As mysterious as he seem, what he said make sense, does it?”
“What do you know about him?” Okita quirked a brow.
“From what I heard from the Aizu, even they don’t know much about Okusawa’s identity.” Yamanami explained. “They said that he just came to them one day seeking to work for them, for only a month. He doesn’t talk much to people, but he is a skilled swordsman. Kondo-san actually asked if he could meet Okusawa after the meeting, but they said he had left to do patrol.”
“That makes him even more mysterious…” Okita muttered. “I guess even you failed to interrogate him.”
“But I can tell how he felt.” Yamanami chuckled. “From the way he battled, is just like Okita-kun. He seems to have a hint of sadness lingering but at the same time, he was determined to protect what he holds dear.”
“Protect something important huh?”
“Surely there’s a reason you chose to pick up a sword and fight. Life changes from time to time, that is why you have to understand your purpose of living and stay true to it.” Yamanami said. There was a faint voice calling from inside, Yamanami decided to head back in. “If it is something you decide to do, then put your mind in it and pursue it.” He told Okita before he went back inside.
“A dream, something that all of us share, right?” Okita mumbled as he looked up at the night sky. “I must become stronger, for Kondo-san’s sake.”
Good news continued to pour into the roshigumi headquarter. Few days after the meeting with the shogun, Serizawa had new tailored clothes distributed to the member as a way to promote the name of the roshigumi. Apart from new uniform, they received official orders from Aizu to police Osaka next week. Everyone was beyond excitement at the news but Hijikata and Yamanami were wary about how things had been going, hence they warned the members to be careful and behave themselves since they’re now representing the shogun.
“Everyone is so excited.” Horikawa commented as he and Heisuke sat down at the veranda one night. “It’s good to see that everyone’s hard work has been paid off.”
“It’s a good thing that the Aizu had plans on accepting us as their retainers.” Heisuka stretched his arms before laying down on the veranda. “But we will be even busier as time goes, maybe I won’t even get proper sleep after today.”
“But it’s good news, isn’t it?” Horikawa said as he poured each of them tea. “The Aizu has even issued your first mission as a shogun retainer.”
“As much as I really want to go to Osaka, but I am not selected to be in the group.” Heisuke let out a sigh. “Guess I am not really useful huh? It will take longer time for me to get my first mission.” He accepted the cup of tea Horikawa gave him. “But speaking of which, what is the purpose of the Aizu asking us to police Osaka? Has something happened there?”
“Perhaps something has happened there… Or some nobles were heading there and the roshigumi were asked to serve as vanguard…” As far as Horikawa remembered, Hijikata never accompanied the group to Osaka. With Hijikata in the roshigumi headquarter, he could barely had the chance to leave, perhaps he should come up with some plan to follow the other members to Osaka.
There has been great news within the roshigumi lately, if you are aware. It’s all thanks to you that everything has been going on according to history.
If you haven’t heard the news yet, the Aizu has given orders to the roshigumi to police Osaka. As much as I wish to follow them, Hijikata-san won’t be following them so I may ended up cooped in Mibu. But I worry that the retrograde army is up to unrest in Osaka and trouble for the roshigumi. Is it alright if I trouble you to patrol Osaka in my place? Please be careful out there.
While it's not confirmed if the roshigumi ever had an audience with the Aizu, many media included this to be one of the milestone that formed the Shinsengumi. However, it's unlikely that the Kyoto Mimawarigumi actually meet the Aizu together with the Roshigumi (they're somewhat like political rivals). In fact, the Kyoto Mimawarigumi was formed with the same aim as the Shinsengumi but they consisted more of samurais of noble background and they policed area around Nijo Castle and the shogun residence, compared to the Shinsengumi who policed the red light Gion district. It's also said that their leader, Sasaki Tadasaburo looked down on Kondo and his group of 'misfits' that claimed themselves as samurai. Why would Aizu formed two groups with the same purpose can be questionable. But in the end, the Shinsengumi earned more recognition than the Mimawarigumi. In the end, I put them in here merely for story purpose.