Disclaimer: I don't own jack!
Special Dedication to LovelyPolkaDots, without whom this would not exist.
Summary: Silence wasn't always indicative of weakness. Sometimes, it could even be a strength.
Suggested Listening: Gasoline as performed by American Avenue
Chapter One: Capture
The moon was rather bright tonight. It was large and milky, casting a silvery sheen over the empty streets. Kagome kept her hands tucked into the sleeves of her kimono. An edge of danger brushed against her senses. She'd heard some unsavory rumors of political unrest beginning to boil over in Kyoto. She'd only intended on traveling through the city before making a final stop in Osaka. However she hadn't made as much progress as she would have liked during the day. Now instead of camping out in the relative safety of the wilderness, she was forced to seek out a room within the city limits. It really was a bit of a bother.
Most places she stopped at either turned her away or assumed that she was only seeking work with their establishment. She took great care to avoid the red light district as much as she could. A misunderstanding or altercation too close to its parameters would spell trouble for her. She bit into her bottom lip nervously. Night had long since fallen. She needed to find a room soon.
The young woman stopped mid-stride. A cold chill ran down her spine. She knew that feeling. Like the tips of some unknown person's fingers tracing a line down the arch of her back teasingly. It was both threatening and disconcerting. It served as a warning to the predator that lurked just out of sight. She narrowed her eyes, carefully observing the darkened alleyways that dotted along the street she stood. Danger was near.
A bottle crashed to the ground followed by raucous laughter, "See boys? I told you our luck would turn around!"
Kagome tightened her stance. Her mouth pressed into a thin line. This was a familiar problem she'd grown accustomed to. Her brows furrowed sharply.
"Hey sweetheart, you need some company?" A group of three drunkards stumbled into the silver light of the moon. The stench of sake poured from their clothing, as did the foul odor of male perspirant. "We're patriots, you don't need to be frightened." The obvious leader of their group took one unsteady step after another towards her still form.
Kagome pulled her arms closer to herself and shook her head in response. She hated this part. A single man would be easy to overcome but a group of them would be more difficult. She wouldn't be able to fight them; which just left her with two other options.
"Aw look, she's shy!" They became emboldened by her silence. "How cute. Come on girl, this will be fun! We'll treat you properly." Pale lips pulled back to reveal partially rotted teeth. He lifted a hand and curled his finger in a beckoning motion. She wanted to gag. How crude.
Kagome shook her head again. This time she turned on her heel and began to walk away. She'd have much preferred to bypass the group entirely. Unfortunately the road did not permit her to brush by the drunks without placing herself squarely in arm's length. Her back was left exposed but it still gave her the advantage of distance. She honed her ears on the sound of their stumbling. It'd be a miracle if they managed to catch up to her in their state. How they had not already fallen on their asses in a drunken stupor by now, she'd never know.
"Come back here!" Their voices grew furious. Ah here it came. The indignation of being rejected. She couldn't count the amount of times she'd been forced to walk away from situations like this. When she left her village she'd assumed that she'd run into some harassment. She just didn't think it'd be this rampant.
"Get that bitch!" Alcohol induced jubilation gave way to seething fury. The sound of their heavy footsteps broke into a full speed run. She didn't hesitate. The young woman used one hand to hitch up the cloth of her yukata as she darted into the back alleys.
She wasn't familiar with these surroundings. Nor did she know which alleys fed back into the main streets and which would lead to a dead end. Trying to run and escape the city entirely would be too difficult to accomplish as things stood. The roads were too dark. She hardly knew her own location. The men were gaining ground on her. That just left her only one option, to break away long enough to secure a hiding spot until the danger passed. She'd have to rely on her instinct to outmaneuver the bastards and keep out of their reach.
"She's down here!" Another called out. Kagome ducked into a thinner passageway. It was hardly large enough to fit herself let alone three drunk men. She pressed her back against the wall and lowered onto her haunches behind a stack of firewood. She ensured to keep herself out of sight. The men ran past the narrow opening and further down the alley. Her teeth clenched together. It wouldn't take long for idiots like that to give up. She'd just have to wait them out.
A sharp cry rose up. A wet gurgle bubbled from a man's mouth as the sound of steel cutting through flesh reverberated in her ears. A sickening feeling churned in her stomach. She knew this sensation. She'd sensed it many times before when she wandered through the volatile forest that surrounded her village.
The young woman held her breath as a palpable tension stilled the night's air. It wasn't just the drunks anymore. The predators had become the prey. Something else was now stalking the streets. Something inhuman.
"Who the hell are you?" She peered over the stack of firewood to spy the group's leader taking a menacing step towards the unknown assailants. She couldn't see them very well but she could sense them. The attackers weren't human, yet they didn't have the wild flare that youkai had either. They were a being completely unknown to her.
What were they?
"You wanna fight, huh?" The hiss of a sword being drawn echoed loudly. Kagome held still as deranged laughter erupted from the man still shrouded from her view.
The drunk quirked a brow, "What are you mumbling about over there?" He made the mistake of lowering his weapon to get a better look at his opponent.
"Blood!" There was a flash of scarlet and white. Then the unmistakable cry of terror from the drunk. "Blood! Blood! Blood!" The creature thrust the tip of its sword into the man's chest with each deranged mutter. The scent of copper grew thick in the air. She was too far out of her league here. Kagome held still, biding her time for the chance to escape. She kept her hands clasped over her mouth as a safety measure.
Maniacal laughter erupted from the creature. It stepped into view, revealing stark white hair that glittered oddly in the moonlight. It drew its tongue along the seam of its lips, licking away some of the splatter of blood. A sickening twist churned in her stomach. This was too much.
"More. I need," It's voice was masculine and ragged from insanity. "I need more blood!" It braced both of its palms over the hilt of its blade. It pointed the katana towards what was left of the drunkard's body. "Give it to me." The voice dipped into an inhuman snarl. It plunged the tip of the sword into the area at the base of the neck.
Kagome closed her eyes. She hated feeling so powerless. It was a sensation of such helplessness that drove her to frustration. She bit into her bottom lip and tried to force out the horrific sounds of steel cutting apart flesh repeatedly. Just a little longer. She could escape if she was just a bit more patient.
The sounds of flesh being ripped and torn apart stopped. Instead only the sporadic deranged laugh penetrated the stillness.
"There's more." It chanted. "I hear more." Steel dragged heavily over the ground. The dampened squish of a foot stepping through something wet made her flinch. It wasn't water that thing was trudging through. "More. I hear more. Give it to me!" It was closing in on her. Wait, could it hear her breathing? Her eyes widened in fear. If so then she was in some serious trouble. This alley was too narrow to fight, the creature was too large to duck around and this space ended into a high wall. She'd be killed before she could scale it.
The creature suddenly gave a pained cry. It jolted, as if fearful of something. Kagome wanted to look but remained still. She couldn't move. Not yet.
Flesh tore and the scent of blood grew sickening. She pressed her back further into the hard brick of the wall behind her. Was it another attacker? She tried to keep from making as much noise as she could.
"Aw, Hajime-kun you didn't leave me anything." A male teased as his foot kicked at something. "You work too quickly sometimes." This person sounded human. Judging by the noticeable lack of bloodlust in comparison to before, she assumed that the creature and its brethren had been slain.
"It is our duty, Souji. Nothing more." Another man returned with a flat tone. He seemed unimpressed by his companion's desire to kill. "Unlike you, I take no pleasure in slaughter." Their footsteps carried them closer to her hiding place. It wouldn't be safe to expose her location just yet.
"That's not very nice, you know." The first man laughed off the comment. They stilled as she kept her hands pressed tightly to her mouth. No sounds. She couldn't make any sound.
The hissing of a sword being drawn echoed sharply in her ears.
"Come out." The command was simple and directed at her. Kagome released a sigh of frustration. How had he known? Instead of pressing her luck further, she stood from her hiding place and raised her hands as a sign of surrender. Immediate escape wouldn't be an option. These men had been capable of killing an inhuman creature bent on slaughter. She'd have to observe their behaviors carefully and then plan her escape accordingly. Azure eyes narrowed sharply at their defensive demeanor. She could only see two. One fairly tall with a wide grin and piercing eyes. The other was much shorter, his expression set into a reflection of cautiousness. She would have to play her cards carefully lest she be killed before she could complete her goal.
"Oh? It's a girl." A man with the sharp smile grinned at her maliciously. "You've got some seriously bad luck, kid."
Didn't she know that first hand. Her life had just been a string of unfortunate events. She pressed her lips into a thin line at the thought.
"Well, what should we do Hajime-kun? She's seen everything so killing her would be the easiest." He shot a thoughtful look at his comrade.
The dark-haired male slid his katana back into its scabbard, "That is not our decision to make. We'll report this to the Commander and allow him to make the final decision." He pinned her with a cool glance. "You are to come with us. I'd prepare yourself in your situation. This will likely not end well for you."
Her brows furrowed into a heated glare. Of course, yet another death threat. As if she wasn't used to that already. She kept her hands visible as the brunet stalked up to her.
"Let's go, kid." The man roughly grabbed at her wrist. His grip was nearly to the point causing pain as he pulled her along with him. "Mind explaining what a girl like you is roaming the streets by yourself at night?" There was a playful note in his tone, but the glint in his gaze gave way to his true intentions.
Kagome bit into the side of her cheek. She couldn't answer that even if she'd wanted to.
"What, cat got your tongue? You know, silence isn't going to get you any favors." There was the cut of a threat wedged within his words. Not that she necessarily blamed his suspicion. Still, she was fully aware of what her silence meant to others. Her fingers curled into a tightly closed fist. She knew that more than most. He shot her a sly glance over his shoulder at her reaction. He was enjoying this.
"Enough Souji. We'll deal with it after we return." Cobalt eyes drifted towards them coolly. "She may still be in shock." Kagome kept pace with them. Her eyes focused on the spot between the dark-haired man's shoulders. She could feel the slight squelching of the ground beneath her feet. A grimace of disgust flitted over her features before she could stop it. She didn't want to see any more.
They walked for several minutes, feeding through the back alleys and away from the main roads. They clearly did not wish to be spotted a second time. They only stopped as they came to the gates of what appeared to be a large family compound.
The men moved swiftly, half dragging her to an isolated room on the far side of one of the outer lying buildings. With a rough gesture, she was forcibly tossed into a tiny room. There were no bars to block her path but she knew that they would be observing her closely. She was no longer just a witness. She was a captive.
"Get some beauty sleep, kid. This just might be the last chance you'll have for it." The taller man threw that now familiar smirk at her. It was neither kind nor welcoming. The only thing it was meant to achieve was to send a chill down her spine… and it worked. His personality was caustic; corroding away at whatever sense of safety she might've had left. His comrade, Hajime if she'd heard correctly, sighed heavily. He threw one last cautious glance her way before the door slid shut behind them. She was alone for now at least, but how long would that be?
Kagome pressed her back against the wall and stretched her legs out in front of her. She'd think of a method to escape in the morning. Her body was too worn out to get further than the front gates at this point. Plus, it'd be a cold day in hell before guys like that would just leave her unattended. Even now she could hear the faint shifting of someone standing outside her door. This was going to be a very long night.
Saito closed his eyes. Neither he nor Okita had anticipated on there being a witness. It was well past dark when the fury escaped their compound. Much of Kyoto's citizens took shelter as soon as dusk settled due to the political turmoil that roiled just beneath the surface. Most had no intention of getting caught by their night patrols. So why had she been out there in the first place? That question still bothered him.
The captain returned his attention to the meeting at hand. With the existence of the furies exposed, a decision would need to be made quickly regarding the woman's fate.
"The witness is being held in a room for the time being." He ran through the series of events as accurately as he could recall. "We still need to deliberate on what we should do with her."
In front of him, Hijikata clicked his tongue in frustration.
"She saw everything?" His tone was sharp as he eyed him wearily. Their leader was not the type to grant mercy easily. Still, being forced to murder an otherwise innocent bystander was a bitter reality that they were facing.
"If by everything you mean seeing those furies dice up three men to tiny little bits before getting the swing from Saito, then yes. I'd say she saw everything." Okita interjected with a coy grin. "It'd be easier to just kill her. No witnesses to worry about running their mouths then." He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. To Okita, death was merely part of the job. He thought little of ending a life regardless of circumstances. Saito respected the man for his dedication but there were a few times that his enjoyment of doling out death pushed too far.
"Shut your mouth, Souji. We can't just kill innocent people." The Commander settled a fierce glare on the captain. "Gather everyone up in the morning. We'll find out what she knows and what she doesn't."
Okita's expression turned cold, "Sure you can try but the kid isn't talking." He tipped his head back to stare absently up at the ceiling. "Didn't make a peep earlier when we brought her in. Good luck prying anything out of her if she's determined to keep her mouth shut." He grinned widely, "But that'd make our jobs easier, now wouldn't it?"
Hijikata was unimpressed. He threw his subordinate an exasperated glare, "I'll decide what to do with her. Just get your ass to bed, Souji." His eyes narrowed at him. "Don't think I didn't hear you coughing like a madman this morning. Get some damn rest before you collapse."
Saito blocked out the remainder of their bickering. He did not like this. Killing was part of their duty as captains of the Shinsengumi, but that did not mean that he took any enjoyment in it. He wasn't ignorant enough to believe that the woman didn't pose a threat to them. Indeed, she could be more than capable of using her softer appearance to garner sympathy. Regardless the thought of taking an innocent life left a bitter taste in his mouth. He'd have to fulfill his duty but that didn't mean that he had to like it.
"Saito," Hijikata paused in his debate with Okita to address him. "Keep an eye on her for now. She pulls anything stupid, you know what to do."
"Understood." He rose to his feet, his palm clasped over the hilt of his blade. He would not hesitate. The man made his way to the holding room. He took a position near the exit yet just out of sight. He could hear the tell tale shifting of the clothing, as if she were trying to get comfortable on the floor. His lips pressed into a thin line. It was of ill manner to treat a female in such a way but they had little choice in this matter. Saito kept guard, listening for any faint signals that she were trying to escape. After several hours he felt his shoulders relax somewhat. His eyes tipped towards the sky.
The blackdrop began to give way to dawn's early light. The Commander would be rousing the others to the Common Room. His gaze slid to the still tightly shut shoji screen. She hadn't attempted to flee during the night, so that was somewhat promising. It saved him the task of cutting down a fleeing woman. The bitter taste rose in the back of his throat for a second time. That notion was not a pleasant one to think of. Saito blinked as Inoue approached her room from the other side. The man's expression was gentle yet pulled into a slight frown. It was clear that he'd been tasked with bringing her forward. Sensing that his job was complete, the ronin turned on his heel and entered the common room. The other captains along with Hijikata, Kondou and Sanan were already gathered. He took his familiar spot beside Okita. Despite their opposing personalities there was one thing they agreed upon: All threats to the Shinsengumi needed to be dealt with accordingly.
Saito paused as the door opened a second time. Inoue led the female within the room. Her brows were furrowed with concern but otherwise showed no other signs of distress. How curious. He'd born witness to stronger men break down and weep the moment they were pulled beyond the gates of their compound. Did the possible threat of death not faze her? Or was she confident that they would spare her? The answer remained unclear as she took a seat at the center of the room; completely surrounded by them.
The Commander was the first to speak, "Saito, give us a full report."
He nodded once in response, "A few of our warriors broke the code last night. They picked a fight with civilians. When confronted they drew steel and we were forced to subdue them."
The woman quirked her brow at his use of the word 'subdue'. She clearly disagreed with that version of events. Given her situation she likely wasn't in any position to refute him otherwise.
Hijikata nodded once, "Right, as for you." He pinned her with a piercing glare. "Mind telling us what it is that you saw?"
The woman shook her head repeatedly. Her hands clutched into tight fists over her lap. She did not tremble at the man's raised voice. Nor did she shown fear at the rising tension between the captains.
"No? Tell me, kid. You have any idea what kind of position you're in?" Hijikata's voice dropped into a threatening growl. The commander scowled sharply at the defiant behavior she was displaying. "Keeping silent isn't going to do you any favors. If you don't want a sword in your gut, I suggest you tell us what you know."
As expected Kondou rushed to intervene, "Come now Toshi. Surely we shouldn't be threatening an innocent woman." The burly man's brows knitted together as he tried to calm his friend down. "I'm sure she's been through enough since last night. Perhaps she's still in shock as Saito-kun suggested."
Saito perked up at the mention of his own name. His eyes narrowed on the woman contemplatively. There was no shadow in her eyes, nor paleness in her cheeks. A spark of rebellion lit within her gaze. She was a stubborn type.
"It's not shock," He announced with finality. "You're not telling us what you know." His expression deepened, "The Commander is correct that silence will not spare you any mercy. So I ask now, is there a reason why you're not telling us?" Curiosity won out over all else. Heisuke, Harada and Nagakura who'd been largely silent on the matter leaned forward as well. The trio stared down at her hard. It was an intimidating display that would shake weaker men to their core. The young woman paused as if contemplating her answer, then met his eyes directly and nodded once with certainty.
"Oh?" Okita circled around her predatorily, "What reason could be more important than having your life put on the line?" The ronin's tone was light but the sharpness in his features exposed the dangerous nature that lurked beneath the visage. There was no mistaking his message. He would kill without a moment's hesitation. It didn't matter if she were a female or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. If she were to be deemed a threat then he'd follow through with his orders. For a man like Okita, there was nothing else to contemplate.
She looked between them before placing her palm at her throat and making a motion towards it. She opened her mouth and shook her head as if to emphasize her point.
Saito paused. The others shared a look of disbelief amongst each other. Could it be?
His lips thinned as he asked the question that they all now had on their minds, "Are you mute?"
Her brows furrowed with determination. She nodded again, still unfazed by their threatening glances.
Kondou turned towards Hijikata, "Toshi, she can't even speak." His tone took on a chiding note. "It would be wrong to kill her. Especially if she's unable to tell anyone about what she may have seen."
The Commander pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation. This situation had just gone from difficult to impossible. Violet eyes narrowed on her form, "How do we even know that she's mute? We need to verify her claim first before we do anything else."
Okita's grin turned malicious, "There is one way of finding out quickly." His thumb flicked at the hilt of his blade, pushing it outwards a few centimeters.
"Souji!" Kondou began to reprimand him. However the female in question responded much faster.
In the blink of an eye she'd held out her hand, gripped the sleeve of her kimono and pulled it back, exposing her flesh and holding out her arm as if in an offering for him to cut. Azure eyes met emerald in a battle of wills. Okita drew his blade a few centimeters further. Saito could not deny the slight edging of distaste for his comrade's willingness to inflict undue harm. Surely there were other methods to verify her claims.
"You sure, kid? It'll hurt." He was taunting her now. "Might even lose that limb of yours. You really okay letting one of us dice it off just to prove a point?" The ronin took a menacing step closer towards her. The other men stiffened in reaction.
She held firm, holding her position and Okita's eyes without flinching. The tension grew thick. Saito made a move to step between them but another acted more swiftly.
Harada intervened between the pair, "Hey, knock it off Souji! We aren't going to cut up a girl just to see if she can scream." Golden eyes narrowed at their comrade with disapproval. "Can't we just ask Yamazaki to see if he can figure it out first? Better than hacking away at her like some barbarians."
Saito allowed his own opinion to be heard as well, "I agree with him. We should permit someone knowledgeable in such matters determine whether or not her claims are valid." He glanced towards Hijikata pointedly. "It would be the most humane way of solving our issue at hand." They were in a bind. They could not allow the woman to run free, especially if she'd born witness to the atrocities committed by the furies. However if she were indeed mute then it'd make their next decision that much easier. They wouldn't be able to allow her to leave until they felt more secure with her being privy to that particular secret, but at least they wouldn't be forced to kill her outright. At this particular moment, her silence was likely the only thing sparing her from certain death. Determining the veracity of her claim to muteness would need to be done humanely. Cutting apart her body to test that theory felt horribly wrong. His gaze drifted towards her set expression. At that moment a stark realization hit him: she hadn't flinched once. This woman was far braver than they were giving her credit for.
"Yamazaki!" The Commander didn't waste any time in making his decision. "Get in here." The door slid back in response. Yamazaki entered into the room with a curt nod at their Commander before shifting his attention to the young woman. It was unlikely that he'd missed the conversation so little was needed to brief him. "Think you can see if she's mute?" Hijikata jutted his thumb towards the woman.
The short man scanned her contemplatively, "It wouldn't be difficult." His eyes flickered momentarily as he thought over what he'd need to do next. "It'd be best if it were performed in another room. Would that be permitted?" There was only one reason why Saito believe he'd make such a request. To determine the full extent of the damage to her voice, it was likely that he'd have to trigger a small set of nerves; doing so would possibly require the removal of some or part of her clothing. It'd be ill mannered to have her undress in front of a crowd.
Hijikata waved his hand, "Just take someone else with you."
Okita made a move to step forward but Inoue managed to offer first, cutting the man off before he could cause any further issues.
"If that's so, then I'll accompany you." The older man threw a warm smile at the pair. "Shall we get going?" The young woman nodded once then did as they commanded of her. Yamazaki took the head of their small group, leading them away towards a separate room. The captains watched silently as the trio exited. However it did not last long.
"Hijikata, I shouldn't have to remind you that killing an innocent woman would only cause us to lose more faith with the citizens of Kyoto." Sanan broke the silence that had swelled with their quick absence. "We mustn't be hasty to make this judgment."
"It is possible that another method of dealing with her can be reached." Saito added onto the man's sentiment. "If she is indeed mute then we would merely need to watch her."
Okita threw a caustic grin at him, "Oh? How do you suppose we explain why we're suddenly taking a woman into our fold? It'd look pretty bad if the soldiers believe all the captains were being given special treatment."
The Colonel intercepted his point, "As I fear would occur as well, Okita-kun. However we merely need to disguise her."
The group rambled on for several minutes. For a moment Heisuke had thrown a suggestion of disguising her as a page, however her lack of voice would render such a position impossible for her. She would be incapable of carrying verbal messages between groups. In every essence, her silence was both a blessing and a curse for them to deal with. Then, an idea came to mind.
"If I may," Saito interrupted the rapidly deteriorating argument. "There is one way in which a woman would be permitted on these grounds." It was a shot in the dark. In fact it hadn't ever been attempted before but this could possibly be their only chance at sparing an innocent life and keeping the secret of the Fury Corps under wraps. Still, it would require a willing volunteer capable of killing the girl should she attempt to flee from them.
All sets of eyes in the room turned towards him owlishly.
"You don't mean…" Harada swallowed thickly, his gaze shifting between him and their Commander in shock. It was clear that he hadn't gotten his message across the way he'd intended given the look that flashed over the other man's face.
Saito sighed heavily, "We need only to convince the soldiers that she is the wife of one of the Captains. There is no need to do more than that." His gaze shifted towards his struck comrade. "We would not force her into an actual marriage against her will. This will merely be a disguise." The man's shoulders visibly relaxed. Above all else, Harada was a gentleman. He cared little for harming women and less so children. He would not be the type to sit idly by and allow such a travesty to occur were he to have actually suggest such a thing. It was something he respected about his colleague. Conversely, that nature also made him one of the least likely to be chosen to play the role of 'husband'. Which just left himself, Okita and Hijikata.
Their Commander scratched at his chin. His eyes narrowed as he thought over the suggestion carefully, "Who do you suppose would fit the role best?"
Saito didn't hesitate, "Either myself or Souji. It'd be suspicious if you were to take a wife suddenly without any previous preparations."
Okita smirked triumphantly, "Well since you offered why don't you take up that role, Hajime-kun? I'm not exactly the marrying type so it'd be less suspicious if you did it."
Hijikata nodded again, "Souji's got a point. Sorry to ask this of you but think you'd be willing to do it Saito?" A grimace flashed across their leader's expression for a moment. "It's not exactly a prime situation but we can't pose her as a page. This is the best that we've got."
The ronin rolled his shoulders, "If you order it so, then I will do ask you ask." He'd be lying if he said that he didn't feel a small twinge of frustration. Marriage wasn't something he'd given thought to. Even as a disguise, it'd be difficult for him to try to work himself into the role of 'husband'. He'd try regardless though. Simply because it was required of him.
All men paused as the doors slid open once more and Yamazaki returned with the girl and Inoue in tow.
The short male closed his eyes, "She is mute. She is capable of reading and writing, so she'll be able to communicate her answers to your questions that way. I've already provided her with the materials. Please feel free to resume from where you were." Yamazaki offered a curt bow before excusing himself.
The girl hadn't waited for their first question before she started to write. Once finished she lifted the parchment for them to read.
For your original questions, my name is Higurashi Kagome. I was traveling to Osaka last night when I ran into your men.
Saito peered down at her, "What all did you witness?"
Kagome looked at him briefly then ducked her head as she started scrawling her next answer onto the parchment. Several seconds went by until she lifted it up once more.
Everything more or less. They attacked a group of drunks that I'd had a brush with earlier. I was using that alley for a hiding spot from them originally. I don't know what those things were and I don't intend on asking. I'd rather not know.
Okita's smirk grew sharp, "Smart girl but that still doesn't change that you saw something you weren't supposed to. Hm, what should we do? We can't exactly just let her walk out of here." The man was trying to intimidate her. Saito threw his companion a disapproving glare. Did he ever stop with his nonsense?
That time she practically rolled her eyes as she shot down another message—this one directed at the First Division's Captain.
Oh, you mean how you let some blood crazed animals out onto the streets? Hate to break it to you but how about you show some responsibility for your own failures? Killing me might temporarily stop the issue but what about in the future? Can you say that another won't escape and cause mayhem for other citizens? You're talking really cocky for a guy that screwed up.
Saito's lips twitched. Just like that she'd painted them into a corner. She'd exposed the very nature of their failure and turned it back onto them. It was merely by chance that she'd been there at the wrong place at the wrong time. However she was completely correct in her assertion that the next time such an event happened they might not find themselves as lucky. What if a fury escaped and attacked a large group of people—leaving witnesses behind that they couldn't possibly silence or kill without tarnishing their reputation further? She'd gotten one over on them.
Hijikata narrowed his eyes, "Souji, don't antagonize her." Okita shot the man a displeased glare over the scolding, but stepped away regardless. The Commander continued, "In any case, what I want to know is why you were traveling to Osaka on your own. Shouldn't you have had an escort?"
All eyes were on her once again. It was no common event that a woman would travel on her own. Especially in a city as rife in political turmoil as Kyoto. Surely she had a male relative nearby that she'd been traveling with? It was too dangerous for a single female to be on her own. Ronin were only one of the dangers of long distance travel. There were also scam artists, trafficking rings and an assortment of other issues. She either had an ironclad will, or there was something more going on. The group waited with bated breath for her answer.
This time she took a bit longer to respond. When she next lifted the parchment, her answer had nearly filled the page.
I was looking for someone acquainted with my father. Last I'd heard he resided in a temple near the shoreline of Osaka. I was making my way there to find him. I didn't have any other relatives that could escort me so I went on my own. I travelled here from a small village just outside of Edo.
Sanan glanced over the words carefully, "I presume that this man is a monk?"
Kagome nodded fervently.
"Your father couldn't escort you?" Kondou knitted his brows together with paternal concern. He had a wife and a daughter back in Edo. So it would stand to reason that he was more disturbed than some of the other captains at the notion of a woman near his daughter's age traveling on her own.
She shook her head once. Then wrote a single word.
The air shifted around them again. She had no father, no other male relative and was traveling on her own before getting caught up in the consequences of their failure. Saito fought the urge to sigh. Either this girl had incredibly bad luck or she had a knack for getting herself into difficult situations. His brow twitched.
Hijikata cleared his throat, "From where we're standing there's only one thing we can do." Her azure eyes snapped up to his intently. No fear reflected in her gaze—only an intense stubbornness that still surprised him. "We can't disguise you as a page, nor can we just have some woman roaming our halls without tongues wagging." He pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "We're going to give you an official position. I don't want to get word of any complaints. You will do as your told and you won't bitch about it either, understood?"
She quirked her brow and looked as if to argue. She bent her head down, flipped the parchment and then wrote out another response. Saito didn't have to guess that this one would be just as fiery as the one she'd given Okita.
Kind of bullshit but I'll take the bait. What sort of position are we talking about here?
A fierce expression flitted over the Commander's features. Saito had to give credit where it was due. Either she was incredibly brave, or incredibly foolish. Their leader clicked his tongue before gesturing towards him.
"Saito is going to explain everything to you. Do exactly what he says, when he says it and there won't be any problems. Got that?" An edge of a threat sharpened the man's tone.
Kagome quirked a brow. She crossed her arms over her chest but did not write another response.
Taking this as a sign to continue, Hijikata pressed forward. "Good. With that out of the way, this meeting is concluded. Saito, do what you need to." The group began to stand. Kondou, Hijikata and Sanan were the first out of the door. Harada, Nagakura and Heisuke swiftly followed suit. The dark haired male sucked a breath between his lips. He had a feeling that this next conversation would not be a pleasant one.
Okita rose to his feet. A teasing smile played upon his lips. As he slipped past him, he couldn't resist dropping one last line of sarcasm, "Good luck Hajime-kun. She might just give you a run for your money."
Somehow, he did not doubt that assertion one bit. He pinched the bridge of his nose in a rare show of frustration. Kagome, he recalled her name, sat patiently waiting for him to respond to her silent question. He sucked a breath between his lips.
"Due to the severity of the circumstances, the only way we can guarantee your safety is if we pose you as the wife of a Captain." She looked as if to write upon her parchment more however he continued, keeping her from doing so. "This decision was the best solution we could come up for the time being. Do not worry, you won't be expected to do anything more than the regular household duties in which a wife would normally attend to. You won't have any other obligations. I ask that you make this transition as easy as possible."
She scrawled on the paper quickly in response.
So does that mean you're playing the role as husband?
Saito sighed. She was sharp as a tack. That wasn't necessarily a bad quality for her to have but that did make his job a bit more difficult, especially where furies were concerned, "You are correct in that assumption. My full name is Saito Hajime. I'll sort out our background shortly. In the mean time do not wander these compounds on your own without an escort. It could lead to more trouble."
Kagome lifted an unamused brow at him. She did not seem to be thrilled with his set of directions. She shifted her attention back to her parchment and began scrawling a hastily written message for him. Reluctantly, he glanced over her response.
More trouble? Like this isn't enough already? I'm still not okay with you guys just deciding everything for me like this. I've still got my own obligations to fulfill, you know. I won't stop doing what I need to, but I won't purposely give you trouble either.
Stubborn woman. Did she simply not grasp the full severity of this situation? Or was she just ignoring it? Regardless this left him in a deeper bind than he'd anticipated. The Captain suppressed a sigh, "I suppose that is the best you can offer. Do not forget that you're still being observed. Do not act rashly or draw suspicion upon yourself. The Shinsengumi will still order your death if you're found to be a credible threat."
She lifted her arms and gave a nonchalant shrug at the notion. She was unperturbed as she'd been the previous night at their threats. Did death not scare her? What a rather odd reaction. He'd think on it later. Right now he had other pressing issues to deal with. Namely getting this virtual stranger to learn the rules of their household. If she were going to at least pretend to be his wife, then he'd not settle until he was certain that she wouldn't cause further issues for his comrades.
He closed his eyes in resignation, "I'll accompany you today. It'd be best to familiarize yourself with the locations you'll be permitted to access for the time being. I'll also explain the details of your current role as it should be filled." He gestured towards the open doorway, "Let's begin with the Yagi House. From here on out, this will be where you will live." What he didn't say was that it was possibly the last house she'd ever live in if she did not cooperate. The world was a strange and dangerous place. He only hoped that this wouldn't be a mistake.
Saito led his new 'wife' down the halls of the compound. Things were about to get incredibly chaotic. He only hoped that the excitement would blow over a soon as possible. Neither of them needed the extra attention a "marriage" like theirs would bring.
Kagome followed behind him. Where her voice failed her, her expressions did not. Like an open book, frustration and a slight twinge of fury etched into her features. Hiding her emotions did not appear to be one of her strong suits. As of now, She was following his directions but they'd see how long it'd last. A sour taste rose in the back of his throat once more.
"The Maekawa House," He gestured towards the largest complex across the engawa from where they currently stood. "Is where the rest of the rank and file soldiers reside. It'd be best if you remained as far from there as possible. Your presence could disrupt their morale." Saito kept his tone direct and to the point. He wanted this over as quickly as possible. The longer he remained in her presence the more disquieted at the odd situation he'd thrown himself into.
The man paused as he caught sight of the tiny building tucked back between the other two residences. His brows furrowed as he gestured towards it quickly, "That is the Nambu house. You would do well to never approach it." Her brows knitted in curiosity but she still followed behind him. "That area is off limits to everyone but the Captains, understood?" It was where the bulk of Sanan's experiments took place. It was also where the Corps resided during the day; away from the light of sun and prying eyes.
Kagome nodded just once. For a brief moment he heard the faint brush strokes of her writing down a response on the parchment. By this time it'd nearly been filled to the bottom so with incredibly small writing she scrawled out the last thing she wished to say to him.
Understood but there's one thing I want to know. Where do I sleep?
A small flush crossed her cheeks as she turned away when he read over her question. Saito paused. The regular soldiers weren't permitted to enter the Yagi House without direct permission from Hijikata or Kondou so he didn't think that'd be an issue. Still, there was always the risk of being spotted entering separate sleeping quarters by chance from the inner courtyard that connected the two houses. His brows furrowed sharply.
"For now you'll take the room next to mine. It's small but it should be large enough to accommodate your needs." Saito turned the final corner and led them back towards the Captain's quarters. "If you need anything then feel free to ask either myself or Yamazaki. We'll do what we can to tend to your needs as they occur." In a house full of men they lacked the proper supplies for a female once she would hit her cycle. Being uninitiated in caring for woman in such a way, he was a little more than confused at what products to purchase. Yamazaki would have a better understanding what was necessary for such an event.
Kagome nodded again. A fierce glint of determination shone brightly in her eyes but his shoulders relaxed as she entered her quarters. Hopefully, this would not turn out to be a grave mistake.