Chapter 1: Hijikata's Diary
“It’s so hot?!” Kiyomitsu wailed as he tried to keep himself cool with the paper fan he got from his Master, Okita Souji. The soft wind breezing through the trees didn’t help much either. So annoying. He felt so sweaty and sticky.
Yasusada, lying next to him in the grass underneath the cherry tree, inhaled a deep, heavy sigh. Kiyomitsu flopped over to his stomach with an even deeper sigh then rested his head onto his arms. Yasusada tried to sigh even more dramatic, but choked on air instead as he tried. He coughed loudly.
“That’s it!” Kanesada glared at the Okitagumi swords for interrupting his peaceful slumber in the sun then sat up straight. “I get why he’s overdramatising things, but what’s wrong with you?”
Once he was able to speak again, Yasusada replied; “I’m hungry, and Kasen-San refuses to make more cupcakes.” The young teen pouted. “I only had two out of the fifty he made this morning. Seriously, who ate all the others?”
Kiyomitsu shrugged as innocently as he could. Kanesada rolled his eyes then inhaled a deep breath and tried to say something, but was interrupted by Horikawa who came running towards them.
“Kashuu! Have you done your chores of the day?”
“No, it’s too hot!” the scarlet eyed teen wailed. “What horrible person gives a cute Sword-teen like me such a terrible chore on a hot day like this?”
Kanesada’s eyes suddenly start to glow then scolded; “That ‘horrible person’ you revering to is Hijikata-San!”
“Ah, yes. He’s such a bully.” Kashuu sighed exasperated. “Someone really needs to remind him he’s no LONGER the Vice-commander of the Shinsengumi AND we are not his soldiers!”
Yasusada chuckled; “Habits are hard to break, I suppose. It’s like a second nature to him.”
“Yeah…anyway…” Horikawa said, noticing his partner turned red in rage and could explode any minute. “Hijikata-San and the others will be back soon. For your safety (and everyone else’s), you should start on your chores. You don’t wanna feel his wrath when he finds out you didn’t obey. Back in the days, I overheard a few soldiers and some of them said they weren’t able to sit for a week after they failed to listen.”
Kiyomitsu blew his hair back in frustration then emitted another dramatic wail. Yasusada elbowed him gently.
“Come on, I’ll help you. But only this time.”
Without waiting for a reply, Yasusada stood up from the patch of grass he was sitting on then started to walk back towards the Citadel. Behind him, Kanesada scolded his partner for badmouthing their master. According to him, Hijikata would never hurt anyone till the point they couldn’t sit. Kiyomitsu rolled his eyes then rose to his feet, emitting heavy sighs as he went.
While following is partner, he sneakily licked the glaze off a cupcake he had stored in his pocket, earlier the day.
“I can’t believe you’re making me do this!” Kiyomitsu exclaimed at his partner as he swept the floor of Hijikata’s quarters, lazily.
Yasusada, who was in the neighbouring room, rolled his eyes then decided to ignore his friend’s complaints and resumed back to cleaning the windows. In the other room, Kiyomitsu stepped onto a loose floor board as he swept it. it instantly peeked his curiosity. Would a man like Hijikata-san hide his dirty secrets under the floor? A grin appeared on the scarlet eyed teen’s face.
Yasusada wiped his forehead then eyed the clean windows. He had done a pretty good job. It was time to check how far Kiyomitsu was. It had been awfully quiet for the past few minutes and usually it didn’t mean anything good. He better not fell asleep, again.
“Kiyomitsu?” Yasusada poked his head inside Hijikata’s quarters where he found his partner sitting on the floor holding something that looked like a small book. The blue haired boy frowned. “What’s that?”
Kiyomitsu stared at the item in his hands as if he had found some treasure then whispered mysteriously; “It’s Hijikata-san’s diary.”
“What?! No! Put it back right now! Diaries are not meant to be read by others!” Yasusada’s eyes filled with fear. Hijikata would explode if he found out someone read his diary.
“Relax.” Kiyomitsu rolled his eyes. “Aren’t you surprised a man like Hijikata-san keeps a diary? I mean, diaries are for soft-hearted persons, not…” Kiyomitsu suddenly gasped; “What if it’s not a diary? What if he uses this to list down all the names of the people he hates and wants to take revenge on? We owe it to them to read and warn them. I mean, Okita-san could be on it.”
“Why would Okita-kun’s name on Hijikata-san’s revenge list?”
“You know, because he’s a better swordsman than him.” Kiyomitsu looked as if he just convinced himself then inhaled a deep breath for courage and opened the book to read the first line.
“Nope, it’s a dairy after all.” Kiyomitsu seemed a bit disappointed, but proceeded reading anyway. There was always a chance Hijikata-san trusted some of his ‘revenge’ thoughts to his secret diary, right?
Yasusada felt his heart drop when he heard footsteps in the distance, heading towards them. He quickly sped towards his partner and friend then tried to snatch the diary from his hands.
“Stop it, Yasusada!”
“No! Someone is coming! It might be Hijikata-san!”
The footsteps suddenly stopped mere inches away from the room they were in. They could see a tall shadow on the hallway floor. Both friends held their breath as they felt their heartbeat thump loudly in their chests. It seemed ages, but finally, whoever the person was, headed into a different room then the footsteps faded away into the distance. Both teens released the air they have kept in for so long.
“We were nearly caught! Now put it back!” Yasusada hissed angrily.
Kiyomitsu shook his head stubbornly then smiled; “Come one, Yasusada. Don’t you wanna know Hijikata-san’s secrets?”
“No, thank you. Hijikata-san will tear our heads off.”
The scarlet eyed teen snorted then opened the diary with a grin. “Just a few minutes, okay? I wanna know if he mentions me.” Kiyomitsu grinned eagerly then flipped forward a few pages and started to read.
If someone told me I would somehow travel to the future which would change my life drastically, I would have laughed in their faces. It all started during our lunchtime in the park when I felt an odd tingly feeling wash over me. (I don’t know how else I should describe it) I was startled for I have never felt anything like that, but I couldn’t think too much of it because I suddenly noticed my swords, Izuminokami and Kunihiro, were gone. They weren’t lying beside me anymore, where I had left them.
“That’s it, Souji! I am so done with your stupid jokes!” I scolded and smacked my unit member, who sat right next to me, to the back of his head. There’s nothing I hate more than people touching MY stuff, and Souji should know it, but no! He just had to pull another prank on me.
“Jokes?” Souji rubbed the sore spot on the back of his head. I must have hit him a bit too hard. “What are you talking about, Hijikata-san?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know it, Souji! How did you manage to steal my swords and where did you put them?!”
I was infuriated.
“Hijikata-san, why do you always assume it was me when it’s actually YOU who forgets were you leave your stuff?!” Souji poked my chest as he said the word ‘you’, something I really hate and Souji knows it.
“Because it’s always YOU who pulls pranks on me! It’s always YOU who steals my stuff!”
“Not this time, okay? You better find it so we can get back to work.”
Souji stood up. I glared at him with suspicion. Changing subject is another tactic a guilty person would do. GUILTY! PERIOD!
“Wait, where’s Nagasone?!” Kondo gawked at his waist where he had left his sword. He almost never takes it off, not even when he sits down to lunch. Souji even makes jokes about it and says Kondo sleeps and showers with it. Probably he had taken it off, for once. Kondo must have thought the same thing because he spun in circles while scanning the grass. It was nowhere.
“Haha, funny one, Kondo-san!” Souji laughed then stood up as well and dusted his clothes off. That’s when he realized something was missing from his side as well. “My swords! They're gone, too!”
“Awesome!” I scolded. It looks like we all lost our swords. How was that even possible? Someone must have stolen them, but who? I looked around to the other people who were visiting the park and that’s when I discovered we were in a different park. No, not a different one. It was still the same park but certain things had changed. The enormous fountain that always stood in the center of the lake was GONE. How?
“What happened? Where are we?” I gawked at everything around me and so did Kondo and Souji. All the other park visitor wore strange clothing, nothing we were familiar with. Some talked through a strange device that they kept against their ear for some reason.
Suddenly I felt a sharp sting on my arm and realized Souji had pinched me. I smacked the back of his head in return.
“Ak! Hijikata-san, I was only checking if this is one of your weird dreams!” Souji whimpered while rubbing the sore spot.
I glared at him then scolded; “Yeah, and I just smacked you to see if we’re stuck in your crazy dreams! Obviously we are not!”
“Wait, that would mean…” Souji slowly looked at Kondo who stood aside looking awkwardly. Before Souji had the chance to pinch him, we noticed why Kondo looked awkward. A group of teenage girls had gathered around us and giggled.
“They look so handsome,” one of them commented.
“You guys cosplay look so real!” the other squealed enthusiastically.
“Do you mind pictures?!”
Simultaneously, the group of girls held up a strange device which looked similar to the ones we’ve seen others talk through. Could it be a weapon? Kondo, Souji and I went for our swords, which weren’t there anymore. I could tell by the look on their faces they felt equally stupid as me. Neither of the girls seemed to notice it, though. They giggled, did something with their odd device then waved and left, giggling.
Kondo looked clearly stunned then asked; “What just happened?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, feeling equally stunned as my partner.
“You guys think my favorite dango place would be still around?”
Kondo and I slowly turned our eyes at Souji then, simultaneously, smacked him to the head. Why is it, in every situation, all Souji thinks about is food?
We finally managed to cross a few streets (which were different and more crowded from what we’ve used to) without being run over by metal carts on four wheels which was quite scary. Shinsengumi warriors are trained to fear nothing, but it’s quite hard to prepare yourself for the predicament we had found ourselves into, unexpectedly. Still, I was somehow still thinking this was nothing but a bad dream. One you have difficulties with to wake up from.
As we walked down the streets, a sudden scream came from a back alley. Out of instinct, I ran towards it while unsheathing my sword, that wasn’t there. How could I forget? Stupid.
For a moment I just stood there, watching a thief stealing an old lady’s bag. It was Kondo’s voice who yelled my name that knocked me back to sense, but by then the thief was already running. I instantly started the chase, and so did Souji. Kondo stayed behind to comfort the upset and frightened lady. He was good with that sort of thing.
After a rough chase, Souji and I lost track of the thief. He was far better known with this place than us, which is pretty understandable. We sighed then returned to Kondo and told the lady we would do our best to find the criminal and return the money. She mumbled something inaudible then sauntered away.
“We are in an unfamiliar world with no swords. On top of that, I also haven’t seen any other unit members. Did you?” I asked. Kondo and Souji both shook their heads. I stroked my chin. “It’s almost like we’re in the future”
Kondo nodded agreed. “ I was thinking the same thing. But how is that even possible?”
“I’m hungry…” Souji complained while dragging his feet lazily. Then he dug deep in his pockets and found his pouch with money. With a happy glint on his face he went to a food stall. He showed the vendor his money who shook his head then waved him away. Kondo and I shared a confused look. Souji returned with a darkened face then pouted; “That guy doesn’t want my money.”
Kondo patted his friend and partner on the back then smiled; “My guess is that our money is worthless in this world.”
“Yeah, but I’m still hungry. If this keeps going like this…if we won’t return to our world soon, we have to draw straws to see which one of us the others will eat.”
“I’m pretty sure we won’t be needing to do something that drastic,” Kondo said as he and Souji sat down on a nearby bench. I looked around. All the stores looked so different from what we’ve been used to. Even the soba place we used to eat our favorite dish was gone.
Suddenly my eyes caught a teenager walking from a nearby alley. The reason I was surprised by his presence was because of the clothes he was wearing. A black hakama with dark red hakamashita kimono and a red scarf around his neck. That’s when I noticed the sword dangling down his side. It looked similar to…
The teen stopped in his tracks when he heard my voice then looked into my direction. His eyes widened in shock then he turned and ran back into the alley.
“Hijikata-san! What are you doing?” Souji called out when I ran away to grab the kid. It had to be the thief. Why else would he run? I could hear Kondo and Souji close behind me. The kid was surprisingly fast, I had to give him that, but I was fast, too. I instantly increased my speed. The kid kept looking over his shoulder and I could see panic in them.
It didn’t take long before I started to close in on him and was able to knock him to the ground. The kid tried to wrestle me off but his attempts were futile. I pinned him to the ground then ordered Kondo to give me something to tie his arms. All he had was his belt.
After I had tied the kid’s arms behind his back, securely, I unsheathed the sword he carried and took a closer examination. Without a doubt, it was Kashuu, one of Souji’s swords.
“It doesn’t belong to you! Give it back!” the kid grumbled angrily as his scarlet eyes burned deep into my eyes.
“It doesn’t belong to you either,” I snapped back then put it back in its sheath and handed it to Souji. His eyes became teary immediately. I rolled my eyes then turned them back onto the kid and demanded an explanation on where he got it. And where our other swords were. The teen stared back at me, his eyes filled with rage and his lips zipped tight. It was obvious he wouldn’t budge. I sighed annoyed.
“Kiyomitsu! Where are you?!” a sudden voice called out. I turned around just in time to see a second teenager come around the corner of the building. He was similar dressed as the first one, only his hakama was grey with a blue hakamashita kimono and a white scarf. His eyes fell on his friend then us.
“There's my sword,” Souji gasped. I frowned then followed my partner’s gaze and saw the sword the teenager was reaching for. It was identical to Souji’s second sword.
Without hesitation, the boy did what his friend told him and bolted. Souji instantly pursuit, demanding the boy to give him back his sword. My partner’s screams faded into the distance. I sighed deep then pierced my eyes coldly into the teen’s.
“Looks like the both of you are in deep trouble!”
After about twenty minutes the kid still hadn’t said a word, despite my rough effort. Most soldiers would have quivered in fear by now, but not this kid. I would have been impressed if I met him in different circumstances. He could have been a great asset for the Shinsengumi. Now he was nothing but a thief. A sword thief. And I just had to find his weakness.
“Hijikata-san. Please untie him.”
“What?” I grumbled and saw Souji return with the other teen close behind him. Kondo and I stared at him, confused. He then explained what the other kid had told him. Their names were Yamatonokami Yasusada and Kashuu Kiyomitsu and both were called Touken danshi, humanized swords of Okita Souji. Their task was to protect history.
“I’m sorry, Kiyomitsu. I didn’t know what else to do.” The teen, Yasusada, said then hung his head down and stared at his feet. “It’s Okita-kun, and he’s here in 2205, which doesn’t make sense.”
“2205?!” Kondo and I exclaimed in sync then gawked simultaneously.
“We are in the future!” Souji beamed like the sun. “That’s awesome, right?!”
“NO, not awesome!” Kondo rubbed the sides of his head and looked even more worried. “Do you guys think this is why we lost our swords? Because we’re in the future and we won’t be needing it here? Because there’s no Shinsengumi in the future?”
“Wait, you lost your swords?” Yasusada asked.
Souji nodded. “We discovered it in the park, right after our lunch. That’s also when we realized everything had changed.”
“You probably misplaced it, like you sometimes do!” the kid named Kashuu grumbled as he was still lying on the ground. I still hadn’t taken the effort to untie him. He daggered his eyes at Souji. “You know, like you did with me at the bakery!”
“Wait, how…” Souji gawked baffled.
“Because I’m your sword, that’s how! Now can someone untie me?!”
I rolled my eyes then untied him. When he was rubbing the sore spots on his wrists, I noticed he was wearing nail polish. I smirked evilly.
“What are you, a girl?”
Kashuu send a glare at me then Yasusada suggested to head back to the park and look for the swords. Once we arrived there we found a couple of young kids playing with it. We were absolutely sure the swords weren’t there, so it most likely traveled through time after we had left the park. I just grumbled then demanded the kids to give me back my sword. They stared at me in fright then dropped the swords and ran while screaming with fear.
“Hijikata-san, you are so bad with kids,” Souji smirked. I just side glared at him then sheathed my sword and demanded the two humanized swords to take us back to the past. Of course they weren’t able to. All they could do for now was taking us back to the Citadel, hoping there would be someone who knew what to do.
Once arriving at the Citadel, a very nice looking place surrounded by mountains, I met two other humanized swords. My mouth dropped when I discovered their names were Izuminokami Kanesada and Horikawa Kunihiro, my swords. I have to admit I’m quite relieved they’re not teens but two fine young men. I wouldn’t know what I would have done if I suddenly had to take care of two teenagers, especially if they had Kashuu’s attitude.
Neither of the manifested swords could explain why or how we got stranded in 2205. Maybe we would find out someday. Right now we had to learn blend in in a world where the Shinsengumi didn’t exist anymore. Souji didn’t seemed bothered with the news. He was excited and couldn’t stop telling everyone how much he always wanted a son and now had two.
Kondo on the other hand, was slightly saddened when he discovered his sword wasn’t manifested yet. I guess he was really hoping to see what he looked like. But there was still a chance he could, unless we would magically travel back to the past as unexpectedly as we also came in 2205.
I had a bit more trouble to cope the news. Especially because of my job. Here, in the future, there was no shinsengumi. Would that automatically mean I was no vice-commander anymore? I felt a sudden sad feeling, but only for a brief moment. Outside the quarters I shared with my human-swords, I heard whispers. I clenched my fists.
“Souji, I’m warning you! If that is you teaching your sword-teenagers how to pull a prank on me, all three of you won’t be able to sit for a whole month!”
I heard three pair of footsteps quicken away into the distance, back to the quarters Souji shared with his human-swords. I smirked to myself. This era maybe has no Shinsengumi anymore, but I for sure will still the be vice-commander!
“Kashuu! Yasusada! What on Earth…”
Both boys froze when they heard Hijikata’s booming voice echo through the room then heard his heavy footsteps approach from behind. Cold chills crept down their spine and their heartbeats pounded in their ears. They had been too caught up with reading the diary and didn’t realize the owner had returned. It didn’t ’take long before the enormous shadow of the vice-commander casted over them.
Kiyomitsu looked up, slowly, an nervous smile curling the sides of his mouth then when he saw the angry glow in Hijikata’s eyes, his face turned pale instantly. Yasusada quivered in fear, too scared to look up. Hijikata pierced his eyes into the scarlet eyes before letting them fall onto the item in Kiyomitsu’s hands, the diary.
“Ah, I…eh…” Kiyomitsu started to sweat profusely when he saw the angry glow into Hijkata’s eyes turn into a murderous one.
Hijikata’s lips slowly turned into a thin line, his eyes closed momentarily before he took in a deep breath of air then barked infuriated; “ Souji, you have ten seconds to stop me from doing something I would most likely never regret!”
Both Yasusada and Kiyomitsu knew that was their cue to bolt, which they did.
Izuminokami and Horikawa, still relaxing under the cherry tree, looked up with a frown when they saw both Okita swords run by, screaming their lungs out in fear. Not far behind them was Hijikata, threatening and scolding the two for reading his diary. Not far behind Hijikata was Souji, begging and pleading the vice-commander to not hurt his ‘beloved’ swords too much.
“They never learn, do they?” Izuminokami sighed as he laid back in the grass again.
Horikawa didn’t reply, just looked very worried and hoped both swords would get out in one piece.
Chapter 2: Expedition in Edo
First thing Hijikata saw when he woke up was his two, still sleeping swords and realized he was STILL in 2205. Though he and two of his shinsengumi unit members lived at the Citadel for more than a week now, Hijikata still hoped it was nothing but a very bad dream. He should give up that thought by now, but it was still very hard to believe a thing like time-travel existed. And on top of that, he not only had to deal with Souji's jokes but also his two swords, Kiyomitsu and Yasusada. They were nothing but a pain in his neck since he arrived at the Citadel.
Remembering the Okita swords most recent antic, the diary thing, he wondered if it had been a bad idea to buy one in the first place. Back in 1864 he always wrote a diary, to write his daily things and, occasionally, some poems. But back then there weren't scrawny teens poking their noses in things that didn't belong to them. Hijikata sighed and made a mental note to himself to search for a better hiding place, if there was any.
Hijikata yawned openly then sat up straight in his futon and rubbed his eyes. Next to him, Kanesada muttered something inaudible in his sleep.
"Kashuu, you little…!" Kanesada suddenly snapped his eyes open then sat up straight and looked around, warily. Obviously the teen not only haunted him by day but also in his sleep. Kanesada saw he was safe in his quarters and let out a breath of relief. He then realized he wasn't the only one awake. He turned his head to his former master and chuckled awkwardly. "Bad dream, hehe.."
Holding a fit of laughter, Hijikata nodded in understanding then pointed at Kanesada's long hair and asked; "Braids are one thing, but were the flowers really necessary?"
The raven haired sword instantly moved his hand through his braided hair then saw a few daisies fall into his lap. His eyes instantly filled with rage. Hijikata couldn't hold it back much longer and laughed loudly. "I really think it suits you, Izuminokami!"
"Yeah? Well I'm glad you like it so much, because it seems the person who did this has done the same with your hair!" the raven haired sword scolded, shooting dagger looks at his former master.
Hijikata went through his long hair and discovered his sword was right. Daisies fell into his lap and onto his pillow then his eyes filled with rage.
Hijikata kicked his blankets off then jumped to his feet and bowled outside the room, leaving a long trail of daisies behind. Kanesada followed pursuit, equally angry and leaving equally amount of daisies behind.
Kunihiro, who had woken up by the sudden racket, sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then, when he saw the flowers on the floor, he quirked an eyebrow.
"Souji!" Hijikata slid the doors to the Okitagumi swords quarters open and charged inside. Kanesada appeared closely behind his former master.
Okita, who was sitting on the floor sipping his tea, looked up then saw the two raven haired men with similar decorated hair. He smirked evilly.
"I like what you guys did with your hair."
Hijikata's face turned red in anger then barked; "You have something to do with this, Souji?!"
Souji put his tea down then tilted his head to one side and smiled innocently; "Hijikata-san, do I look like someone with braiding skills?"
"No, but your girly sword does!" Hijikata grumbled infuriated, revering to Kiyomitsu who recently had discovered the arts of braiding hair and harassed everyone who had long hair, wanting to use them to practice on. "Where is he?!"
"I do not know, Hijikata-san," Souji replied then lifted his tea back to his lips and smiled sweetly; "They were already up before me."
Hijikata clenched his fists in anger. It was more than obvious Souji lied, but it was also obvious he wouldn't budge. He enjoyed covering everything up for his two, precious swords. He had to find them himself, which shouldn't be that hard. They couldn't hide forever, right?
"Ora! Ora! Ora!"
Both Hijikata and Kanesada snapped their eyes at the open window and listened carefully. Kanesada then turned on his heels and sprinted out the room, shouting back at his former master; "They’re at the training Hall!" Hijikata quickly pursuit.
Putting his tea down first, Souji jumped to his feet then hurried to the open window, poked his head out and hollered; "Kiyomitsu! Yasusada! Run!"
Hearing Souji scream a warning at his swords, Hijikata and Kanesada increased their speed, but when they nearly reached the training hall, the latter one suddenly heard a familiar voice.
"Izuminokami, is that you?!"
The raven haired Uchigatana halted his stride then turned around and saw someone he didn't really like to see, especially not with his current looks. Hijikata also stopped to look then frowned when he saw the look on his human sword's face.
"You okay? You know him?"
"Yeah, I know him," Kanesada replied then his knuckles turned pale as he clenched them. "His name is Mutsonukami, once the sword of Sakamoto Ryoma. There is no person more annoying than him, trust me."
Hijikata snorted; "Try being in one room with Sakamoto for day. It will change your mind."
"Trust me, I won't…" Kanesada argued then pierced his eyes coldly at the other humanized sword then grumbled; "From which cave did you crawl from? Couldn't you just hibernate a bit longer?!"
"HAHAHA, it is really you!" Mutsonukami cackled loudly. "I had to double-check because of your hair. It suits you, though."
Mutsonukami ignored the Uchigatana's harsh words then laid his eyes on the latter's former master and smiled; "You must be Hijikata Toshizou. The others already informed me of you and your unit members predicament. So, what do you think so far of the future?" Mutsonukami made a hand gesture at the landscape around them then took out his gun and grinned; "Sucks right, that my former master, Sakamoto Ryoma was right? These days people don't carry swords anymore, but guns instead."
Kanesada would have attacked the manifested sword if it was not for Hijikata to predict his human sword's short fuse and stopped him in time.
"Let it go, Kanesada. That's what I usually do, too. Let's not lower to his level, shall we?”
Kanesada nodded, though, he had a hard time fighting the urge because Mutsonukami still kept grinning at them.
"It's official! Today we lost an amazing partner and enjoyable friend," Kiyomitsu pouted as he and Yasusada sat on the porch right outside their quarters. Yasusada followed his friend's gaze then saw the Hijikata swords sit in the grass nearby. Horikawa was untangling Kanesada’s braids and removed the flowers as he chatted about all sorts of things. Kiyomitsu rolled his eyes. "Look at him, he's all over Kane. I don't get what he has that we don't have. Look at me for instance. I'm cute, strong, and cool." Kiyomitsu emitted a sigh.
Yasusada smiled; "It's because of Hijikata-san. They're both his swords, and very close with him. So were we, since he was in the shinsengumi with Souji." Yasusada then remembered his friend was at the Citadel alone for a long time. He turned his head to look at his friend then asked; "We're you lonely? I mean, you had to wait a long time for me."
"NO! It wasn't like that!" Kiyomitsu replied faster than Horikawa could say 'Kane-san', and turned his head away to hide his blushed face. He then mumbled softly; "How can you say something like that with such a straight face?"
"Awe! Look who's blushing!" Souji cried cheerful as he emitted the quarters to join the two on the porch with tea and biscuits.
Kiyomitsu immediately slumped his face into his hands to hide the increasing blush, exclaiming; "I'm not blushing!"
"Pity. It would have made you look VERY cute." Souji sat down between the two, stealing glances at the scarlet eyed teen. It wasn't hard for him to tell his words made the boy's blush grow, because the redness slowly reached the latter's ears. Souji looked at Yasusada who merely smiled in return.
Souji poured tea for three and divided the biscuits. As soon as his face didn't felt heated anymore, Kiyomitsu dared to show it again. For a brief moment they just enjoyed drinking their tea time in the warm sun. It was Souji who broke the silence.
"So, what are the plans for today?"
"We have an expedition to Edo today," Yasusada replied excited.
Kiyomitsu emitted a heavy sigh then flopped onto his back and grumbled; "Did you really have to ask, Okita-kun? There goes my excuse of not knowing it."
"But you did know." Yasusada looked confused.
"Yeah, but I could have said I didn't. I had plans to sneak out and buy myself new nail polish. I'm almost out of it."
"Well you can't!" Yasusada said with a serious look on his face. "This investigation is very important and you know it."
Kiyomitsu rolled his eyes then sighed; "Yeah, so important I wasn't listening half of the time. I mean, who is even our captain?"
Yasusada thought for a moment then replied slowly; "I think it was Mutsonukami."
"Ugh…" Kiyomitsu grunted annoyed. "All that positive thinking rubs me the wrong way. I mean, positive thinking doesn't turn a mission in a vacation, now does it? That guy doesn't take anything serious."
Souji and Yasusada shared a look then the stood up and reached his hand out to help his partner back up. The latter first glared but then accepted the offered hand and was pulled onto his feet. The two teens waved at their former master as they left.
Souji waved, too then looked slightly worried as he watched the two teens walk off. He knew Edo could be a dangerous place where you had to be alert at all times. He knew that from his own experiences as captain of his unit. The most important thing of being a captain is that your team members safety comes first. You had to be serious. Something Mutsonukami lacked of, according to Kiyomitsu.
Suddenly all sorts of horrible images flashed through Souji's head. Yasusada and Kiyomitsu chased by bears. Yasusada and Kiyomitsu taken hostage by bandits. Yasusada and Kiyomitsu in a heated battle with rogue rōnins. Yasusada and Kiyomitsu captured by giant spiders.
Wait, wha...? Souji quickly shook the horrible image from his mind. That one was most unlikely, but three out of four was reasons enough to NOT let the two boys go without proper supervision. And Mutsonukami was NOT proper supervision. Someone had to go with them. Someone like…
"I'm coming with you!" two male voices called out, simultaneously. Both Yasusada and Kashuu gawked as they saw Souji and Hijikata approach them. The two adults pierced their eyes onto one and another then their faces turned into a scowl.
"Hijikata-san, what are you doing here?!"
"What does it look like?! I'm going to join this team on their expedition to Edo!"
"Why?! It's not like your 'swords' joined."
"Even so, I'm still the best candidate to join them. Mainly because I know Edo like the back of my hand AND I’m also Vice-Commander."
Souji wanted to say he was far more familiar with Edo, especially since he was born there, but Kiyomitsu cut him off and said he wasn't sure either of them could come along since the both of them didn't have a time travel device. Besides, the Edo period they traveled to was even before the time either of them joined the shinsengumi. They would most likely be in early teens and who knows what changes that could bring, for the shinsengumi and the future.
Hijikata sighed then took out a piece of paper from his jacket's breast pocket, unfolded it and showed it to the two Okitagumi swords.
"That sword guy with the glasses, Yagen, asked me if I wanted to join you guys on the expedition and search for this rare fruit tree, which happened to grow in the wild. He seems out of it and according to him it's really good against fevers. He said no major things would happen to the future if I stay out of trouble. Then he gave me this device.” Hijikata took out the said item as proof.
Souji dug deep in his pocket then took out one, too, and smiled; "This is mine. It was lying around somewhere so I decided to take it." Yasusada and Kiyomitsu slapped their foreheads. They wanted to scold their former master, but Hijikata already did that for them.
"You can't just take one, Souji! Besides, Yagen said a reliable person had to go with them. A person who knows how to stay out of trouble. You are the opposite of reliable and you always get yourself in trouble."
Souji sized himself up with Hijikata then scowled; "Did you forget I am captain of our unit?!"
"And I'm vice-commander!"
Yasusada stepped between the two competing men then latched himself onto Souji's arm and smiled; "How about the both of you join? It would be fun, right?"
Kiyomitsu snorted sarcastically; “Yeah, fun. You know what would even be more fun, Yasusada? Hijikata-san thinking he’s our Vice-Commander.”
Hijikata gave the teen a dagger look then retorted; “At least I don’t wear high heels, like a girl!”
“I’ll have you know that high heels were originally invented for Persian men in the 10th century so their feet would fit properly in the stirrups!” Kiyomitsu scolded in defence then folded his arms and said with a cocky expression; “Besides, high heels is the most fashionable shoes for men to wear. They make you look more confident, stronger, and taller. On top of that, they also accentuate the calve muscles and the length of the leg overall!”
Hijikata snorted loudly. “Make you look more confident and stronger?” A smirk curled onto the Vice-Commander’s face; “But do they also MAKE you strong?”
Kiyomitsu would have challenged Hijikata right on the spot for a sword fight if Souji hadn’t wrapped his arm around him and smiled; “Just ignore him, my Kiyomitsu. Hijikata-san is just jealous you have better taste in fashion and are far more well educated, unlike someone else…”
Souji jabbed his thumb at Kanesada who sat on a patch of grass scratching his ear while having his hair brushed by Kunihiro. Hijikata wanted to go in the defence but, Yasusada stepped between them and smiled.
“I still think it will be nice having the both of you around, but it’s really up to our captain, Mutsonukami.”
Both Souji and Hijikata grumbled something inaudible while throwing dagger looks, back and forth.
Yasusada and Kiyomitsu arrived with their plus-two on the expedition scene, right outside the borders of Edo. Otegine, Hakata Toushiro, and Yamabushi Kunihiro joined them on the expedition.
Hijikata couldn't help but wonder how it was possible for the latter one to be Horikawa Kunihiro's brother. They didn't look similar to one and another, at all. But maybe sword siblings were different than human siblings. Hijikata made a mental note to himself to ask Horikawa or Izuminokami to explain it to him, as soon as they returned at the Citadel.
"We have a lot of first-timers on this expedition, don't we?!" Mutsonukami cried cheerful as he approached his team, smiling.
While Mutsonukami rambled on about the plans for the next two hours, Souji eyed him up down and wondered why Mutsonukami reminded him of Sakamoto Ryoma. The similarities in behaviour was pretty scary. The shinsengumi warrior leaned closer to Yasusada's ear to ask him about it but the latter shushed him, instantly.
Yasusada didn't realize what he had done until he saw the icy cold stare in his former master's eyes. He looked apologetic and mouthed; "Sorry." Then his attention was drawn back onto Mutsonukami who said they had no more than two hours before their expedition ended.
"KA, KA, KA! I have trained my body and I shall train my mind! Tell me where to begin, Captain!"
Yamabushi, who had been standing a little too close to Hijikata when he spoke, didn't notice how the 'former' Vice-commander pulled his right ear, trying to get rid of the temporarily deafness. Neither he noticed the penetrating scowl that was thrown at him.
"Wait a second," Kiyomitsu suddenly called out then he and Yasusada both stepped forward, towards Mutsonukami. He then pointed at the two shinsengumi warriors. "Okita-kun and Hijikata-san came along, to search for this rare fruit." The teen took the page (ripped from one of Yagen's medical books) from one of his pockets and showed it to the team captain.
"Hmmm…" Mutsonukami stroked his chin as he read the page, quietly.
Hijikata-san cleared his throat then straightened his back and said; "That's right! Yagen said it was some sort of remedy against fevers, regularly used in this time period. If we search the forest we probably can find the tree and take the fruit back to the Citadel."
"But I know that's not our mission," Kiyomitsu said, faking a sad sigh and lowering his head to hide his real thoughts. What he hoped was that Mutsonukami would say no and order him to take the two men straight back to the Citadel. It could be his only chance to get out of the expedition and run to the general store to buy himself some new nail polish.
"Hmmmm….I don't know…" Mutsonukami stroked his chin some more as he allowed his mind to progress all the information that was written on the page.
Souji shook his head in disbelieve. Wasn't it already obvious enough this 'sanshuu' was an important remedy for fever? And this man was assigned to be team captain? How? Souji sighed. It was more than obvious they would receive the order to return, unless…
"Don't mind me cutting in here, but this fruit is a remedy for fevers, right? What if someone gets sick? Someone close to you? Sure, there are other methods to relieve fevers, but if this fruit is a faster remedy, then cancelling this mission would be worth it, am I right?"
Souji looked at Mutsonukami, waiting for his words to sink into the latter's brain. It seemed like a long process but then it finally looked like Souji's words were progressed.
"Haha, you are right!" Mutsonukami laughed enthusiastically. "This investigation is completed! As Captain I write the report myself! Let's find this fruit. Two hours should be plenty of time!"
Everyone nodded agreed, except for Kiyomitsu. All he could do was pout and wonder when he would get the next opportunity to buy what he REALLY needed.
"Let's head into the woods, KA, KA, KA!" Yamabushi called out with booming voice, and this time Hijikata had been prepared for it and stood already at save distance from the overly excited sword. He even decided to keep that 'save' distance by walking all the way at the end of the line as they followed the man into the woods.
After walking for about ten minutes, Kiyomitsu noticed someone wasn't exactly doing what was told. Instead of looking around intensely like all the others, Otegine just stood still in his roots and looked around clueless. Kiyomitsu sighed.
"Otegine, are you searching or sightseeing?"
"Can I do both?" Otegine replied as he kept his sheathed spear over his shoulder. Then realizing he actually can't do either of the two, he raised his spear and said; "To be honest with you, I'm only good at stabbing things."
With that said, Otegine started to show off his stabbing skills. Hakata and Yasusada seemed very impressed, but Kiyomitsu saw the danger. Warning the others wasn't enough time for. Otegine knocked his spear straight up into a beehive that was hanging down from a tree. He realized his mistake almost immediately.
Without second thoughts the group started to run away, screaming their heads off in fear. The group of four men walking ahead of them – Mutsonukami, Yamabushi, Souji, and Hijikata – turned around to look what was going on. The humming dark cloud that chased the spear and three swords was enough for the four men to scream and bolt, all into a different direction.
"Seriously, rōnins and bandits are one thing but bees…" Souji choked out exhausted when he and Hijikata finally stopped to catch up their breaths. All Hijikata could do was nod in response. Then suddenly they discovered they were with the two of them. Souji's face turned worried as he called out for the two boys that were once his swords.
Meanwhile, in a different part of the forest, Kiyomitsu and Otegine came to a halt as well. While panting exhausted, the teenager told the spear their mission did not involve any stabbing anymore, despite it was the only thing the latter was good at. Otegine was too exhausted to object and promised he would behave.
Yasusada and Mutsonukami also discovered they were with the two of them, and so did Hakata and Yamabushi. The latter two had fallen down a small cliff and before Hakata could come up with a plan, his partner raised him up in the air and hollered something about roaring muscles. Before Hakata knew it, he flew through the air and landed on the top of the cliff.
"Couldn't we have discussed this first?" Hakata mumbled in pain.
"KA, KA, KA, can you pull me up with some vines?!" Yamabushi hollered to the top of the cliff where Hakata was still trying to pick himself up from the ground. The latter scanned his eyes around to find some strong looking vines then dropped them down the cliff. Yamabushi grabbed them with both hands then ordered the younger sword to hold on tight and started to climb up.
As expected, the young sword was not strong enough and found himself falling down the cliff, flat on his face.
"I guess I have no other choice," Yamabushi said then grabbed both Hakata's legs and threw him into the air, hollering; "Let my roaring muscles deliver you once more!"
Hakata's screams of fear could be heard in most parts of the forest.
Both Souji and Hijikata stepped firmly without speaking to one another as they tried to find their way back to the others. Both were completely lost in their own thoughts , worrying for their own reputation. What would the swords back at the Citadel think if they returned without the others? Kondo would be very disappointed in them.
“Don’t think like that!” Souji slapped himself to the cheeks to boost himself up. He was the captain of the shinsengumi for crying out loud. He shouldn’t give up that easily. He was born in Edo and played in the forest many times. He knew it like the back of his hand. The trees. The streams. The caves. The wild animals that lived—“Oh no, what if my boys get eaten by a bear?!”
“What’s wrong?” Hijikata grumbled, breaking the silence when he noticed his friend and partner’s face was as pale as a sheet. He looked around worriedly, but saw nothing.
“Nothing,” Souji lied. He didn’t want Hijikata to know he grew attached to his two human swords and worried for their safety. He would most likely scold him and call him an idiot. Souji stopped in his tracks then looked around, too, trying to find something he recognized. He then pointed west and said; “I know there is a stream behind that hill, running straight through a gorge. Let’s fill up our water bottles then search for the others from there.”
Hijikata looked at the ‘hill’ Souji was pointing at then grumbled displeased; “That’s not a hill, Souji! It’s more like a mountain!”
“Potato – potahto…” Souji rolled his eyes. “What matters is that there’s a stream.”
Hijikata looked slightly doubtful then asked; “Are you sure it’s a stream and not a wild river with a waterfall? The last thing I want is for you to slip and I have to safe your sorry ass!”
“Fine. If you’re too afraid to venture over that ‘mountain’ and have a better idea, I would love to hear it.” Souji glared at the vice-commander with an insulted look. He then sighed; “I grew up here, okay? If I say it’s a stream, it’s a stream. If I tell you I won’t fall in, I won’t fall in, okay?”
Hijikata opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by a sudden scream in the distance. Souji’s body tensed up and his eyes darted around, worriedly.
“Wait, who was that?! Kiyomitsu?! Yasusada?!”
Without waiting for a reply from Hijikata, Souji quickly rushed into the direction of his so called hill, not wanting to lose more time with useless chatting. Hijikata shook his head then followed his friend wondering if Souji looked extremely worried or if it was just his imagination. It probably was, because Souji never had showed any signs of distress during their shinsengumi missions and it even took months for him to warm up to the others, so it was not like he grew attached to two teens in just a few days, right?
Hijikata sighed. He on the other hand had lots to worry about. Kanesada asked him to join the party, to make sure Yasusada and Kiyomitsu were safe. For some reason Izuminokami feared this Mutsonukami guy wasn’t qualified enough to be a serious team captain, and it turned out he wasn’t. For starters, a serious captain would have noticed a team member had wandered off. He would have noticed a member was slacking off and would have stopped the idiot before he had the chance to poke a beehive.
Hijikata still didn’t fully understand what Kanesada was talking about when he said the two teens were like a family to him, even when they were still swords. Like, did they have a conscious back then? Could they feel emotions? Though his former sword’s words left him confused, Hijikata could see from the look in Kanesada’s eyes that he worried for the teens safety, and when Yagen rushed to them and said he was all out of the rare fruit named; sanshuu which could only be found in the forest of Edo, Kanesada looked at him, meaningfully. Hijikata couldn’t help but take the pages with the fruit’s description and promised Kanesada to bring the boys back to the Citadel, safe and sound.
“I knew I could count on you, Hijikata-san!” the raven haired Utchigatana cried gleeful as Hijikata strutted away, making the mission for his former master only the more difficult without realizing it.
“Failing is not an option,” Hijikata muttered under his breath, or so he thought. When Souji, who walked a few meters before him, turned around and frowned, the vice-commander knew he had said it out loud. Hijikata quickly cleared his throat then grumbled; “There better be a stream, Souji. If not, you and your two swords will feel my wrath.”
“Threatening me is one thing, Hijikata-san, but my swords…?” Souji shook his head in a disapproving manner. “Seriously, what have they done to you to deserve this threat?”
Watching the warrior before him turn around and proceed climbing the ‘hill’, Hijikata grumbled agitated; “You seriously forgot what they did to my hair?!”
“Can you prove it was them?”
“Yes! You called out to them to run! Innocent people don’t have a reason to run!”
“Well, I just didn’t want you to hurt them for something they didn’t do. I mean, I couldn’t help notice your other sword loves to comb and braid Kanesada’s hair. I bet he couldn’t help himself and braided yours as well.”
Souji stood still and straightened his bearings as soon he reached the top of the hill then turned and offered his hand to help his vice-commander up. Hijikata rejected the help and climbed the last few meters then straightened his bearings, too, and panted exhausted. He then wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. Down below he could see there was indeed a stream, so that part Souji had been right about. But the hill was still a mountain and no one could tell him otherwise.
Souji slapped Hijikata gently on the back then smiled; “Getting down is always the easiest part, so let’s go.”
Hijikata watched Souji start climbing down then wiped his forehead one more time before tucking his handkerchief away and climb down, too.
The second Kiyomitsu saw the stream he ran towards it like a thirsty traveller in the desert hoping it wouldn’t be an illusion caused by the extreme heat. As soon he crouched down and splashed his face he knew it was real. He didn’t hesitate to take a few big gulps.
“Wow, that’s nice! I was really thirsty!”
When Otegine told him and the other swords earlier he was only good at one thing (stabbing things), Kiyomitsu didn’t realize he meant it literally, but when the spear lost his footings for no reason at all, Kiyomitsu realized Otegine was really a danger magnet. Luckily for Otegine, Kiyomitsu had some very quick reflexes and grabbed onto the other end of Otegine’s spear, preventing him from falling into the water.
“Phiew! That was a close one!” Kiyomitsu puffed in relief.
“Nice safe!” Otegine said impressed, but the feeling quickly subsided when he saw his sword unsheathe, slowly. With a frightful scream, the human spear and his weapon fell into the water.
Not wanting to get a wet suit, Kiyomitsu decided to stay on dry land and turned his back onto his team member, mumbling under his breath and with teary eyes; “Well, so long.”
“AAAGH, KASHUU!” Otegine screamed for help as the strong current dragged him further away from safety. Realizing he won’t get any help from Kiyomitsu and catching a glimpse of Souji and Hijikata who just entered the gorge, Otegine reached both his arms out and screamed; “Please, safe me!”
Without any hesitation, Hijikata kicked his boots off first then handed his haori to Souji before jumping into the stream’s strong current. It turned out it wasn’t as deep as he expected. In fact, the water barely reached his knees.
“Do you not realize you can stand here?!” Hijikata barked at Otegine who was still letting himself being pulled further and further away. Behind Hijikata, Souji couldn’t help but guffaw loudly.
“It’s not that deep, you idiot!”
“I can’t swim! Safe me!”
Hijikata rolled his eyes annoyed then realized he was as good as wet already and swam towards Otegine who was still kicking and screaming for help. Hijikata grabbed him by the shrubs of his neck then waded back to the side.
Souji laughed as he watched Hijikata return with Otegine. The latter seemed paralyzed in fear or too exhausted to move another muscle, which made it for Hijikata even more troubling to return through the strong current.
With some slight help from Souji, both Hijikata and Otegine returned on dry land. Otegine couldn’t help but collapse down and ‘hug’ the dirt.
“You seriously couldn’t stand on your own?!” Hijikata grumbled, exhausted.
“No. I’m only good at stabbing things,” Otegine replied then quivered and wailed; “I’m so happy you came to safe me. Kashuu even didn’t take the effort to jump after me!”
Souji’s grin instantly melted into a worried look. “Wait, Kiyomitsu was with you?”
Without waiting for a reply, the worried warrior dropped Hijikata’s haori on the ground then rushed upstream as quickly as his feet could carry him. It didn’t take long before he saw his beloved Kiyomitsu in the distance, strutting downstream. The teen looked up as soon he heard someone call out his name.
“Okita-kun!” Kiyomitsu’s saddened face instantly lighted up as soon he saw his former master, but then discovered there was a small problem standing between him and Souji. Anything he would have conquered to run into Souji’s arms. Anything but a stream. Wet clothes are so NOT cute. Kiyomitsu pouted sadly; “Okita-kun!”
“Stay there, Kiyomitsu!” Souji called out when he saw his human sword pace restlessly up and down. No way he would allow one of his boys jump into a dangerous stream to get to him. Okay, the stream was maybe shallow and not that dangerous, but still. It was the idea. “Stay there! I will get to you!”
Souji kicked off his boots than tied the laces together and hung them around his neck and shoulders. He folded the haori neatly before tucking it underneath his right arm then jumped bravely into the shallow water.
“Be careful, Okita-kun!” Kiyomitsu looked anxious and worried as he watched his former master cross the stream with a bit of struggle. The current looked even stronger now than it did before Souji jumped in. The teen looked around then saw a perfectly strong stick. He rushed over to grab it then ran back to the edge of the stream and reached it out to Souji while trying to keep his balance at the same time. “Please grab it, Okita-kun!”
Souji accepted the help and grabbed the strong stick. A few minutes later he felt dry land beneath his feet. He had no time to catch up his breath, because Kiyomitsu already hurled himself into Souji’s arms.
“You came looking for me! You conquered that stream for me! That means you do love me!” Kiyomitsu sobbed, burying his face into Souji’s chest.
Souji was a bit speechless at first then smiled warmly as he answered the teens hug and replied; “Of course I love you, my little Kiyomitsu. What makes you think I wouldn’t?”
“Nothing…” Kiyomitsu replied, sniffing and drying his eyes with a slight smile. “I’m just happy to see you.”
The two was interrupted by someone clearing his throat. When the two turned around they saw both Hijikata and Otegine stand across the stream. Hijikata’s haori was hanging over Otegine’s shoulders for warmth. Hijikata glared agitated.
“Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but it would have been easier if your ‘girly’ sword had crossed the water instead of you! I mean, isn’t this the direction we were heading to?”
Kiyomitsu’s eyes filled with worry. Souji patted him on the cheek for a moment then addressed his eyes on Hijikata.
“Actually, no. The scream we heard earlier came from that way.” Souji pointed at the trees then mumbled worriedly; “I really hope that scream didn’t belong to Yasusada.”
Kiyomitsu felt relieved already. He shook his head and smiled reassuringly; “Don’t worry, that scream belonged to Hakata.”
Souji nodded in understanding but still looked worried as he took the boots from around his neck and untied the laces. Hijikata wasn’t pleased with the news he had to cross the stream, again, and pointed at Otegine before asking what to do with him.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. We have a two hour window for this mission, so he can sit here and wait until he ‘portals’ back to the Citadel. The time device is waterproof, so you have nothing to be worried about.” Kiyomitsu smiled. “It’s best you sit and wait with him, Hijikata-san, unless you had plans to cross the stream.”
Hijikata looked at the water for a moment then at Otegine who looked at him, almost begging him to stay. Hijikata finally sighed.
“Fine, you two go. But these things better work, because the last thing I want is to be stuck in this era with him.”
Otegine looked slightly insulted then sat down in the dirt and wrapped himself a bit further into the haori.
Yasusada followed Mutsonukami closely through a gorge, wondering if they would have enough time to find the rare fruit in time. Suddenly the man before him stopped abruptly and Yasusada bumped into him.
“Don’t stop like that!” the Okitagumi sword scolded then was shushed by the older sword who then indicated with his head at something that was ahead of them. Yasusada looked and saw a brown bear saunter towards them, lazily, then showed its fangs when he noticed their presence. Yasusada instantly reached for his sword.
“Stay behind me! Keep your sword in its sheath,” Mutsonukami said as he shielded Yasusada. He then heard the soft clicking sound of a sword being unsheathed and scolded; “Did you even listen?!”
“Better finishing it before it finishes us!” Yasusada grumbled as he took his stance, ready to attack.
Mutsonukami blocked the teen’s path and ordered him to compose himself. Yasusada remained standing in his stance as he questioned the older sword for not using his gun. Mutsonukami explained he only had a few bullets and they wouldn’t be strong enough to stop the bear in time. Besides, their only reason was to pass so there was no reason to kill it.
The bear growled as a threat and Yasusada flinched briefly. Just when he was about to take out his sword, Mutsonukami stepped before him, blocking him more properly.
“I’ll ask you one more time, please put your sword away.” Mutsonukami ordered with low but firm voice then addressed to the bear with the same tone of voice as he asked it to step aside and let them pass.
Yasusada looked on in awe as the sword before him told the bear they didn’t want to fight and only wanted to search for medicine in the forest. Yasusada sheathed his sword and composed himself, slowly.
“You do not need to bare your fangs we only want to pass. Our hearts are the same.” Mutsonukami reached up his hand and the bear slowly stood up on his hind legs. Still, Mutsonukami didn’t felt threatened and kept speaking to the bear, softly. “Surely, we can walk this Earth, together.”
The bear moved closer for a second to sniff the sword’s hands. Sensing they were indeed no threat to him, the bear turned and left with a soft growl.
Yasusada was still stunned by what he just had witnessed then relaxed and watched the bear saunter back the way he came.
As soon as there was no sign of the bear anymore, the two swords continued their way through the gorge and minutes later they reached a cliff overlooking trees full with the fruit they had been looking for. They smiled pleased.
Yasusada looked around, confused, then saw Kiyomitsu looking up at him and waving happily. Souji was with him collecting the fruit. Yasusada felt slightly saddened his partner had found the fruit before him, but already had forgotten about it as soon he had joined him and Souji. Yasusada received a quick check-up from Souji who had been scared and worried for him, but as soon the shinsengumi warrior saw he was fine, too, Yasusada received a hug.
“I can’t believe you’re so slow,” Kiyomitsu grinned then handed his partner the basket with fruit. No way he wanted to get his fingers dirty and ruin his nails.
Yasusada just stuck out his tongue then helped Souji with picking the fruit from the trees. It didn’t take long before they were also joined by Yamabushi and Hakata who also chimed in.
When they collected enough fruit, the group remained standing on the cliff enjoying the view until their time devices beamed them back to the Citadel. Yagen was very pleased with the amount of fruit they returned with.
Hijikata joined Souji and Kondo under the cherry tree, to enjoy the late night summer breeze. The two warriors seemed far lost in their own thoughts so Hijikata decided to sit down quietly. It didn’t take long before he was pondering, too.
“So, how was the expedition?” Kondo suddenly asked, breaking the silence.
Souji snapped from his thoughts then smirked; “Oh, you know. Eventful.” Souji couldn’t help but steal a few glances at Hijikata when he said that. He really wanted to tell Kondo about how heroically Hijikata had jumped into the stream only to discover it was knees deep, but the angry side glare Hijikata gave him told him it was best to keep his mouth shut.
Sensing they were hiding something, Kondo looked at his two team members, one at the time. When the two kept their lips sealed tight, Kondo chuckled.
“Whatever happened today, I’m pretty sure Souji will tell me one day.”
Souji smiled slightly then made some weird head-wobble which basically meant; yes, no, maybe. Hijikata opened his mouth to say he’d better not to, but was cut off when a blur of blue and white came jumping down from the cherry tree and landed in front of him. Hijikata couldn’t help but emit a sound of surprise. Yasusada grinned then addressed to Souji.
“You really need a job while you’re here, Okita-kun. It will make blending in easier.”
Souji frowned surprised at the sudden topic then a second voice came from up the tree.
“Yeah! I bet Hijikata-san will do epic at a poetry-slam!” Kiyomitsu jumped from outside the tree and landed in front of Hijikata, too, then smirked; “I bet people will LOVE it.”
Though he didn’t appreciate the two teens jumped into their conversation so sudden, Hijikata’s interest was slightly peeked. He really liked poetry, but what did poetry-slam mean?
“You and other poetry lovers gather together and you recite a nice poetry you made yourself. The person with the best poetry wins a prize!” Yasusada explained, sensing Hijikata didn’t know what a poetry-slam was. “You will definitely win, Hijikata-san.”
Kiyomitsu nodded agreed then chimed in; “Yeah, you have some pretty good ones hidden in your diary. Trust me, we’ve seen them.”
Not taking notice of the infuriated scowl Hijikata gave him and Kiyomitsu, Yasusada sat down on Souji’s right side then cried gleeful; “You would be a really amazing café host, Okita-kun!”
“Nah-ah!” Kiyomitsu plopped in the grass, too, on Souji’s left then grinned; “He will be a far better bodyguard.”
Yasusada frowned confused; “Who needs a bodyguard?”
“We do!” Kiyomitsu stated with a firm nod. “We become an idol duo named ‘Okitagumi’ and Okita-kun protects us as we travel around the world and sing and perform on stage.” The dreamy look and smile on Kiyomitsu’s face told the others he was already picturing everything in his head. Kiyomitsu knew he would become the cutest pop-star history had ever seen.
Souji smiled warmly then wrapped both his arms around his two human swords and said; “Your idea sounds great, my little Kiyomitsu. I bet you two will look adorable”
"Yeah, we would…" Kiyomitsu said with a dreamy look. Souji, Yasusada, and Kondo laughed. Kiyomitsu blushed immensely. Souji couldn't help but mess up his hair. Kiyomitsu straightened his hair instantly and pouted; "Stop it! I need to look cute at all times! There's nothing cute about a sword boy with messed up hair!"
“Don’t encourage them,” Hijikata grumbled with an eye roll. “Besides, don’t we have to find a way to return home?”
Kondo gave the vice-commander a nudge with his elbow then said; “Lighten up, Hijikata-san. There’s no harm in trying out some things, right? We do have to blend in somehow, even if it’s just for a short period of time.”
Kiyomitsu nodded vigorously then tilted his head curiously and asked; “Is there anything you’re good at, Kondo-san, beside sword fighting.”
Kondo shrugged; “I don’t know. Maybe you guys have some ideas…?”
“You could work at a flower shop!” Yasusada beamed like the sun. He already pictured the shinsengumi commander nursing plants and flowers while being surrounded by women.
“Or a coffee shop?” Kiyomitsu suggested then explained, thinking they wouldn’t know what coffee is; “Coffee is a hot drink made from the roasted and ground seeds, also known as coffee beans, which grows on a tropical shrub and…
“We know what coffee is!” Hijikata scolded then folded his arms and said, looking importantly; “It already existed in Japan since the 17th century, introduced by the Dutch people!”
Souji whispered behind his hand; “Hijikata-san became addicted to it since they lifted the trading restriction back in 1858.”
“I am not addicted to coffee!” Hijikata grumbled in defence. “I just drink it from time to time, that’s all.”
Souji snorted loudly then when Kondo chimed in and said Hijikata drank it whenever he got the chance, (even refused to go into battle without it), Hijikata’s eyebrow started to twitch.
“Coffee is so bad for your skin, Hijikata-san! That’s why I refuse to drink it!” Kiyomitsu commented. “You should really quit with it, you know. The first wrinkles already starts to appear.”
Suddenly, Hijikata jumped to his feet then glared at the others, one at the time and barked; “I drink what I want whenever I want, do I make myself clear?! Also, these are not wrinkles, those are scars!”
And with that, the vice-commander stomped off with stooped shoulders. Kiyomitsu rolled his eyes slightly.
“Sure…but don’t come crying if your skin and hair starts to age, prematurely.”
Hijikata pretended he didn’t hear the teen’s comment and resumed stomping back towards the Citadel and inside the quarters he shared with his swords. There he drew both his swords from their sheaths then plopped onto the floor with a deep, agitated sigh and decided to give the two a nice clean to distract his mind. But it wasn’t that easy. After five minutes he gave up and flopped back on the floor.
“Are you feeling okay, Hijikata-san?”
Startled by the sudden voice, Hijikata sat back up straight then looked at the sliding doors of the room. Once he saw it was just Kunihiro, he let out a breath of air and relaxed but didn’t reply. Kunihiro scurried closer than sat down beside his former master and pointed at the swords.
“You want me to clean them for you?”
Hijikata shook his head slowly then took his sword Izuminokami back into his lap and said with a fake smile; “Cleaning your swords can be very relaxing, am I right?”
Kunihiro didn’t reply and watched his former master try another attempt of cleaning his swords. Even though Hijikata smiled while doing the task, Kunihiro could tell it was just a mask to hide the worries that was going on his head. He had seen it many times before in the past. Before battles, but also after a battle was won. The young sword decided to just sit there and wait, quietly. Pushing and keep asking Hijikata questions was never a good idea. Many tried, and many failed. Besides, he also didn’t want to look meddlesome.
Hijikata tried to keep his mind distracted by humming a soft tune, but for some reason Kiyomitsu’s words kept ringing through his head. He even tried to shrug it off, telling himself that coffee isn’t that bad for a person as the teen claimed it was. People wouldn’t sell the stuff if it caused health problems, or would they?
Emitting a heavy sigh, Hijikata dropped the sword again then stood up and walked towards the small mirror on the wall and looked at his own reflection. He had to admit he had some pretty big bags underneath his eyes, but they could be there for different reasons, right?
“Do I look old to you, Kunihiro?” Hijikata turned to look at his human sword who looked a bit started by the sudden question, not to mention confused. Hijikata sighed. “I know this question sounds sudden, but you’ll maybe know I really like coffee, and today Souji’s girly sword said something about drinking too much coffee and aging faster.”
“Yeah…” Kunihiro chuckled a little, remembering the moments Hijikata refused to go into battle without having his cup of coffee first. The young sword then noticed the frightened look on his former master’s face and realized he had misunderstood his awkward chuckle. Kunihiro quickly jumped to his feet then said with a reassuring smile; “I mean that I do remember your addiction to coffee, but you don’t look old, Hijikata-san. You shouldn’t pay too much attention to Kashuu-san either. The fumes of his nail polish makes him talk nonsense.”
Hijikata glanced at his reflection in the mirror then touched the bags under his eyes gently and emitted a sigh. “But in the meantime I do have these giant bags. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to quit on the coffee for a while.”
Kunihiro dropped his eyes to the floor. He felt like he wanted to say something but didn’t know what. Only a few hours ago he and Kanesada agreed on taking Hijikata to a coffee shop, one day. They thought he might like to try something different than regular coffee. Kiyomitsu and his big mouth always had to ruin everything.
Without a word, Kunihiro turned around and left to search for Kiyomitsu and scold him for making Hijikata upset. Hijikata watched his human sword leave then inhaled a deep sigh and eyed his futon. Maybe some good night sleep might reverse the effects of the coffee.
Later that night, Hijikata snapped his eyes open. He didn’t really know whether it was the bad dream that woken him up so sudden or something else. It was awfully quiet around him and all he could hear was the soft breathing of his human swords as they slept in their own futons. But apart from them Hijikata felt another presence then heard the soft tapping sound of bare feet on the floor. It was too dark to tell who the person was, but one thing Hijikata did know. The person was heading towards him.
The soft footsteps stopped beside Hijikata’s futon, on his left side then it sounded like someone sat down on the floor. Hijikata first held his breath hoping it was not a Ronin trying to kill him. Sure, his human swords told him they basically didn’t exist in 2205, but you never know, right? Just like them, a Ronin could be stuck here, too.
Suddenly Hijikata felt the person grab a string of his hair then heard a soft, mesmerizing singing voice; “Flower gleam and glow…” Hijikata knew that voice all too well. With a sudden movement of his hand, the shinsengumi warrior slapped the person’s hand away.
“Hijikata-san! You could have injured me badly, you know that right?!” Kiyomitsu exclaimed, protecting his face with his hands. The hairbrush he was holding received the knock of Hijikata’s fist then flew through the air and landed in the far corner of the room. The teen was then startled when two strong hands grabbed both his arms and pulled him closer. He then could feel Hijikata’s warm breath in his face.
“Did Souji ask you to do this?!” Hijikata scolded, his face zoomed dangerously close to Kiyomitsu’s. The latter shook his head vigorously, even though it was too dark for Hijikata to see. The Vice-Commander would have ordered an answer if a soft tap on his back hadn’t stopped him.
“Hijikata-san, please let him go. Anger is not the key,” a soft voice said. The voice belonged to Yasusada who sat on the right side of his futon who then turned on a small lamp. Hijikata looked clearly stunned for a moment. Yasusada smiled gently. “Violence is not the answer, Hijikata-san.”
Kiyomitsu took Hijikata’s speechlessness as an opportunity to free himself then nodded and chimed in; “Let us be peaceful and forget the bad times, Hijikata-san. Let us take a moment to find our happy place.”
“That’s it!” Hijikata jumped to his feet then grabbed the scarlet eyed sword by the shrubs of his neck and dragged him out the room.
While being dragged down the hallway and squirming for freedom, Kiyomitsu wailed; “But Hijikata-san, all I wanted was to make you look pretty for your first poetry-slam night! I thought you might like it, especially the song part. I know my voice is still a bit rusty and all, but by the time ‘Okita-gumi’ has its first concert…
“Is it too much to ask for a bit of peace and quiet, especially at midnight?!” Hijikata scolded angrily, not taking notice of what the teen just said and proceeded dragging him into the next hallway.
Yasusada tried to keep up with Hijikata’s strong, firm steps and cried worriedly; “Don’t hurt him, Hijikata-san! Find your happy place!”
“I think his ‘happy place’ was destroyed years ago, Yasusada!” Kiyomitsu cried out right before Hijikata opened the sliding doors to their quarters, with force.
“It wasn’t me, Hijikata-san!” Souji exclaimed as he woke up from his pleasant dreams then felt something being tossed into his lap. The warrior rubbed his eyes to look and found Kiyomitsu, the human version. The teen whimpered in pain and made no effort to get off of his former master’s lap.
Yasusada rushed in from behind Hijikata then plopped next to Souji’s futon, worriedly. “Kiyomitsu, are you hurt?!” Kiyomitsu didn’t reply, just send some angry looks at Hijikata.
Souji looked between all three of them, one at the time then asked, confused; “What happened?”
“What happened?!” Hijikata scolded. “Your swords disturbed my midnight sleep, that’s what happened?!” The Vice-Commander stomped up to Souji until he was next to the futon, too then casted his giant frame over his team member and barked; “Keep them out of my room! Do I make myself clear?!”
Souji wiped some spit from his eyes then mumbled under his breath; “The forecast didn’t say anything about rain today.”
“What did you say?!”
“Nothing, Hijikata-san!” Souji quickly plastered a sweet smile on his face. “I will try keep them out of your room, Hijikata-san.”
Kiyomitsu snorted from Souji’s lap; “His room? Kane & Horikawa room you…” Kiyomitsu was silenced by a smack to the back of his head from Souji then the warrior addressed his eyes back to Hijikata and told him he could count on him. He promised would keep the two boys in tow for the rest of the night.
“You better!” Hijikata scolded then turned to leave.
Kiyomitsu got up from Souji’s lap then shot a stink-eye at Hijikata as he left and grumbled; “Hijikata-san is a bully. All I wanted was to make him look beautiful for his first poetry-slam.
Yasusada chuckled; “Yeah, but was the singing really necessary?”
“It was!” Kiyomitsu said with a firm nod then pouted; “I was giving up a nights rest, you know. Besides, Hijikata-san’s hair could have been magical and maybe brushing it could have avoided bags under my eyes. But no, it’s just ordinary hair and I will look ugly tomorrow.” Kiyomitsu plopped onto his own futon with a deep, sad sigh. “Hijikata-san could at least say thanks for my effort, but no. So ungrateful.”
And with that, Kiyomitsu disappeared under his futon sheets where he sulked until he fell asleep. Yasusada and Souji chuckled then went back to bed, too.
Kondo couldn’t help but yawn as he sauntered down the Citadel garden towards the practice hall. Working at the local café as some sort of male host turned out more tiring than he’d first expected. Not only he had to serve, but he also had to entertain the costumers. And of course, on his first day, Souji had to come check the place out and had taken his two human swords along. A cold shiver runs down Kondo’s spine when thinking back about how horrible that day turned out.
“Ah, Kondo-san!” Kanesada waved at the commander as he strutted past the training hall. The raven haired sword then swayed his sword noticeably and grinned; “You’re up for a challenge?!”
Kondo declined politely then suddenly saw three, motionless bodies on the floor. He frowned the second he realized it were the bodies of Souji, Kiyomitsu, and Yasusada. His heart dropped for a second then figured there had to be other, far better plausible reasons for them to be there, because it was hard to believe Kanesada and Kunihiro would proceed practicing with three dead bodies on the floor.
“What happened to them?”
Kanesada looked over at the three motionless bodies then shrugged and replied; “They were already like that when we came here.”
“Yeah, they were up till late last night,” Kunihiro chimed in. “I think Souji-san must have beaten them up pretty bad for them to be tired enough to fall asleep on the floor.” Kunihiro addressed his eyes back on Kanesada then took his signature stance, ready to attack his partner.
Kondo touched the bridge of his nose then sighed; “And neither of you took the effort to check up on them?”
While blocking his partner’s attack, Kanesada laughed; “Trust me, Kondo-san, you don’t want to see Kiyomitsu go nuts when he sees he fell asleep on the floor. It’s best to leave them there.”
“Come on, it won’t be that bad,” Kondo smiled then strutted regally towards the three bodies. They still hadn’t moved an inch since he arrived. It made him a bit worried, though. But knowing Souji, it was probably a prank.
The shinsengumi commander inhaled a deep breath of air then said with boisterous voice; “Souji, we are under attack! Get your ass up, now!”
Nothing. Souji didn’t even move one muscle. It was a little scary. Usually he would jump up straight after receiving an order, especially when receiving one from Kondo. Both Kanesada and Kunihiro halted their sword clash to see how Kondo would handle the situation.
Realizing he had an audience and not wanting to look ‘weak,’ Kondo straightened his back then took a few more steps towards his best friend and his two swords and cleared his throat.
“Souji! Get up! They’ve taken Hijikata-san!”
“You know, on second thought, maybe they found the liquor and got themselves drunk, AGAIN,” Kunihiro said somewhere behind Kondo.
Kanesada nodded agreed then chimed in; “Yeah, they happened to this a lot, back in the days. Every time Okita-san drank, they joined him. They become drunk very easy, you know.”
“How would they be able to drink back then?” Kondo frowned, wondering whether the two were making jokes on him, too. “Weren’t you just swords?”
Kanesada swung his sword over his shoulder then smirked; “That’s what you think, Kondo-san. We were more than JUST swords. We were able to communicate with each other, join you guys in the fights without being seen by anyone. We’ve seen a lot, trust me.”
Kondo stepped away, bemused. It was like Kunihiro could read his mind, because he quickly chimed in; “But don’t you worry, Kondo-san. We also gave you guys enough privacy.” There was a sweet smile on the sword’s face. Kondo didn’t really know whether it was a sincere smile or some sort of psychopathic killer’s fake-smile. It didn’t felt really reassuring, rather creepy.
Kanesada scratched his cheek awkwardly. “Yeah, it’s not like we did inappropriate things, like constantly stare at our former master when they sleep, though, some of us did.”
With that said, the raven haired sword looked at Yasusada, but the latter didn’t move at all. Both Kunihiro and Kanesada started to look creeped out. Usually Yasusada would go straight into attack mode when you told others about his ‘obsession’ for Okita.
Not wanting to admit he was creeped out, Kanesada crouched down next to Yasusada then whispered into the latter’s ear; “Oi, Yasusada…SPEAK!” Both Kondo and Kunihiro worried for Yasusada’s hearing, but the Okita-sword didn’t move an inch.
“Now that’s creepy…” Kunihiro commented then he and Kondo watched Kanesada stand back up. Then, without another word, the raven haired sword nudged Yasusada with the toe of his boot.
“ORA! ORA! ORA!” Yasusada hollered and snapped his eyes open then jumped to his feet and tackled Kanesada, who was frozen stiff in surprise. Kiyomitsu roared a battle cry, too then joined his partner as they attacked and pinned Kanesada to the ground. The raven haired Utchigatana tried to wrestle his two friends off but, it was futile.
Souji had gotten up, too then looked quite disappointed and said; “Oh, it’s JUST your friend.”
Both Okita-swords withdraw, looking equally disappointed as their former master. The other three men looked clearly confused for a moment and it was Kondo who finally dared to break the awkward silence.
“What just happened?”
Souji grinned widely then replied; “Just showing my two boys how beneficial it can be to act like possums in danger. You know, as safety drill.”
Kunihiro raised an eyebrow. “Safety drill?”
Kiyomitsu nodded. “Yeah, when rōnins come and attack us, Okita-kun figured the best way is to pretend to be possums then attack as soon as they come closer. It works for all sorts of enemies, we see that now.”
“But why you guys attacked me?” Kanesada exclaimed, clueless.
Yasusada smirked; “You really have to ask…?”
Kanesada’s eyebrow started to twitch which was a clear sign for the swords to make their leave, urgently.
Kondo watched the raven haired sword go into ‘ready-to-kill’ mode then chase the two teens. The warrior sighed then ordered Souji to follow him and find Hijikata. It was about time the two started to act like a parent.
Days pass by with not much happening. Mainly because Kiyomitsu and Yasusada were sent out on a sortie along with Kanesada and Kunihiro. They had to patrol and make several stake-outs in the Edo period, which was a good thing for Hijikata. He was finally able to relax without being disturbed by one Kiyomitsu’s antics.
Souji however, walked around the Citadel feeling very depressed and was very worried. The rōnins were increasing in numbers and what if they decided to take his beloved swords as hostages? The other swords likely wouldn’t let him save them. He could change history if he did.
Kondo was feeling quite sad and lonely. They’ve been at the Citadel for weeks now and still his sword wasn’t manifested into human form. Of course he didn’t admit it he felt this way when he saw Souji hang out with his swords, or Hijikata with his, but he really wanted to meet and see what his sword looked like. Every time they said a new sword had appeared, Kondo couldn’t help but rush over to see if it was Nagasone. He really started to understand how Yagen and his siblings felt. They also wished for their other sibling, Itchi, to show up.
Souji emitted a deep, dramatic sigh as he paced up and down the patch of grass beneath the cherry tree Hijikata was trying to take a nap. Kondo, who had positioned himself on one of the tick branches, emitted a deep heavy sigh, too. Hijikata rolled his eyes under his closed eyelids.
“We need to do something! As we speak, rōnins could torture my swords!”
Keeping his eyelids closed, Hijikata grumbled; “Stop being so depressed, Souji! Your swords don’t need your protection. They worked things out just fine before you even showed up at this place.”
“Aren’t you worried about your swords safety?”
“You are very bad parent, Hijikata-san!”
“I’m not their parent, Souji! Even if I was, I still wouldn’t be worried. I know I would have raised them well, taught them stuff, and trust they will be very responsible.”
Souji pouted then plopped down in the grass and wailed; “It’s not like I don’t trust them. I just don’t trust rōnins. Am I a bad parent for wanting to protect them?”
“You are not their parent, Souji!”
Souji glared at the half-dozing vice-commander then leaned back against the bark of the giant tree and closed his eyes. Maybe a little nap would distract his mind.
“Did you know this tree can grant wishes?” a sudden voice asked. Hijikata snapped his eyes open in agony. Why do those swords always have to sneak up so quietly?
A young sword with long raven hair stared up into the tree with a beaming smile. Kondo stared down, looking mildly interested. He remembered the kid’s name was Namazuo.
“All you need to do is write down your number one wish a thousand times then hang them all on the branches of this tree. It’s said the tree will then grant it.”
Hijikata narrowed his eyes then grumbled; “You really think we are that dumb?!”
“It’s true!” Namazuo pointed at the at slips of paper that was softly blowing between the blossoms. “We did the same thing, see?”
Kondo scratched his cheek for a moment then said; “I already wondered what they were doing up here? Would it be weird if I tried?”
“Of course it is,” Hijikata replied when he watched Kondo jump down to the ground. He understood his commander longed to see or meet his human sword, but going as far as writing down the words a thousand times was a bit crazy. Besides, who knew it wasn’t just a prank organistrated by Souji’s swords. For all they knew this Namazuo kid worked with them.
“Wait, so my boys wrote down their wish, too?” Souji beamed like the sun when Namazuo answered with a nod. Hijikata sighed exasperated. He realized he was really the only sane one left when Souji climbed his way up into the tree to find and read his swords wishes.
The shinsengumi Vice-commander shook his head then stood up and strolled back to the Citadel, knowing it was the only place left he could try to relax. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case because within fifteen minutes, Souji came running into the room, looking exhausted and holding some slips of paper.
“Alright, whatever it is, I don’t want to know it,” Hijikata grumbled.
Souji seemed clearly confused at first then quickly said; “These are Yasusada and Kiyomitsu’s wishes. I’m really worried about some of them, yet, I get very emotional with others. Souji wasn’t lying. He had teary eyes.
“I don’t care…” Hijikata grumbled again then unsheathed his sword Kunihiro and decided to give it a thorough clean.
Souji ignored Hijikata’s grumpy mood and sat down on the floor, too then started to read the writings out loud.
“I want to protect Okita-kun. I want to see Okita-kun again. I want to be loved. I want to be nice. I want Kiyomitsu to become strong. I want Yasusada to become strong like me.”
“I don’t care, Souji!”
Souji threw a glare at the vice-commander then said; “I seriously start worrying you don’t have a heart. I mean, most of these wishes are just adorable. It shows they care for one and another.”
“That’s great, Souji,” Hijikata grumbled, not taking his eyes off the blade of his sword as he cleaned it.
Souji suddenly looked worried again and said; “I wonder why they want to protect me. I mean, I’m supposed to protect them, right?”
“You always have to make things weird, don’t you?”
Souji quirked an eyebrow then asked; “What do you mean, Hijikata-san?”
“Just try to keep in mind they are your swords and are supposed to protect you, not the other way around. They are also not your children.”
Souji narrowed his eyes. Is Hijikata deliberately trying to step on his feelings? If so, he deliberately will make things more weirder.
“You know, Hijikata-san, you are so good at cleaning your swords. But you should keep in mind, though, that Kunihiro might feel your touch all over his body. Things might be very difficult for him now, especially if he’s in battle.”
And with that, Souji stood back up on his feet then made his exit while laughing his head off. Hijikata’s face turned pale as he eyed Kunihiro’s blade then wondered if what Souji just said could be through.
Hijikata emitted a scream of rage. Why did Souji always have to make things so weird?
Kondo stared at the thousands of wishes softly blowing in the wind. Souji was nearly at the top of the tree to put back his swords wishes along with some he had written down. Souji didn’t seem to care what other people think of him, unlike Kondo. Even here, in 2205, he still felt like he had to act and behave like the commander he is.
Suddenly a raging scream echoed through the Citadel. It wasn’t hard to guess to who it belonged. Realizing the peace and quiet of the last few days were gone, Kondo turned around then saw Hijikata raging out over something. Above his head, on the roof of the Citadel, Yasusada and Kiyomitsu seemed to hide their fit of laughter behind their hands. Hijikata hadn’t noticed them yet, so why was he so angry?
Souji glanced at his vice-commander, too, and saw the same thing. Feeling happy and relieved to see his two swords on the rooftop, the warrior quickly climbed down the tree and sprinted back to the Citadel. Kondo closed his eyes with a tiring expression then sighed and followed slowly.
Not wanting to sell out his swords on the rooftop, Souji plastered the most fake worried look on his face then fired questions; “Hijikata-san, what’s wrong? Why are you so mad? Did you lose your swords, again?”
“It’s nothing!” Hijikata grumbled. No way he was going to admit to Souji he probably had some sort of heat stroke and hallucinated to be showered with cherry blossom petals. After all, there was only one cherry tree at the Citadel which was far away in the distance filled with wishes. The wind would never be able to carry it all the way back to where he was, right?
The vice-commander closed his eyes then inhaled a deep breath to relax and went on his merry way. Although, that was the plan. Unfortunately, after taking about five steps he felt more petals touch his hair, face, and nose. He stopped, stared up but, saw nothing.
“Hijikata-san, what’s wrong?” Worriedly, Souji looked up as well, pretending he was trying to figure out why his friend looked up with frightened eyes.
Kondo had joined them by now and had his head slumped into his hand, wondering why Souji always had to be such a jokester. For once, couldn’t he just tell his swords to behave?
“Petals!” Hijikata choked out, infuriated. “Tell me you see them!”
Souji quirked an eyebrow then pretended to be really worried and asked; “Do you want me to get Yagen?”
“No, I don’t need Yagen! What I want is from you to confirm there are cherry blossoms flying around!”
Souji tilted his head. “Cherry blossoms? Where?”
“There!” Hijikata pointed at the large circle of cherry blossoms that was formed around him while they had been talking. He had to admit himself it was quite weird there weren’t any around Souji or Kondo but, still, there could be a plausible reason for it, right? “There! Tell me you see them!”
Souji looked at where Hijikata was pointing then looked back up at Hijikata. He repeated the same thing for about a minute then shook his head, slowly.
“What?!” Hijikata roared. “Are you blind?! I mean, look!” Hijikata stepped aside, to a cherry blossom free spot. Sadly, it was cherry blossom free for only about five seconds, because that’s how long it took before he was showered with them again. “See?!”
Souji looked at his friend with a sadden look, as if he was really worrying for his sanity. He then sighed and said; “Maybe it’s best we get Yagen. I mean, I do have to admit you look a bit pale. Do you have a fever?”
“I don’t have a fever, AND I’m not crazy either!”
Souji looked at his friend, sympathetically.
Kondo slumped his head deeper in his hand. A part of him wanted to tell his friend he wasn’t crazy. That he was just being pranked by Yasusada and Kiyomitsu. But the vice-commander looked as if he could murder everything and everyone who dared to step on his path. Maybe it was best to take him inside and try to calm him down.
Souji seemed to have the same idea. He already directed the vice-commander inside the building mumbling something about blaming the hot summer. Obviously he tried to convince Hijikata he was having a heat stroke, which wasn’t so weird since heatwaves were more common these days than back in their own time-period.
Kondo sighed tiredly. Maybe it was best to let Hijikata think the same thing, though, he wouldn’t let the boys get away with it. If Souji wasn’t planned to step up as responsible ‘’parent’, Kondo had to do it.
Kondo looked up at the two friends. They nearly rolled off the rooftop, laughing. The commander inhaled a deep breath then ordered with firm voice; “Get down, now!”
“But Kondo-san, we just tried to cheer up Hijikata-san!” Yasusada wailed, who already knew they were going to receive the worst talk of their life. He then slid off the rooftop, obediently.
Kiyomitsu took no effort to give up his advantage point and merely nodded, agreeing to what Yasusada just said.
“Look, I know Hijikata seems always gloomy but, that doesn’t mean he is. Next time, just try to leave him alone. We don’t want him to get a mental breakdown, now do we?”
Yasusada dropped his sadden eyes to the ground, as if he was really contemplating his recent actions. Kiyomitsu didn’t seem to look bothered with the idea at all. He just scratched his ear, as if he hadn’t heard Kondo.
Suddenly, another familiar roar echoed from inside the Citadel then Kanesada appeared with drawn sword. He halted his stride momentarily then spun on his feet until he spotted his target. Roaring another battle cry, Kanesada went into a straight bee-line for Yasusada.
“No, AAAAGH!” Yasusada made a break for it. Kanesada chased after him, swaying his sword madly.
Kiyomitsu smirked. “See, and this is why people say I’m like a cat. I always choose to stay on higher ground, in case danger might appear.”
“Shouldn’t you save your friend?”
“Because he wasn’t the only one doing he prank. And he’s your partner.”
Kiyomitsu stared into the distance where Yasusada tried to find protection behind the large cherry tree. A pondering look appeared in his eyes then asked; “Can I take a bath first?”
Kondo sighed tiredly; “Kiyomitsu, who’s idea was it to prank Hijikata?”
The look on Kondo’s face said it was very dangerous for Kiyomitsu if he kept questioning him for another minute. Knowing this, and knowing the prank was his idea, the teen sighed in defeat then jumped down to the ground, in front of Kondo.
“Fine. You win.”
And with that, and roaring a furious battle cry, Kiyomitsu unsheathed his sword then bowled into the distance to save his partner.
Feeling already more brave with his partner by his side, Yasusada unsheathed his sword then stepped out from behind the tree and charged toward Kanesada.
Protecting himself from being slashed, Kanesada moved his sword up then clashed with the other two swords and a heated swordfight ensued.
Kondo, who saw it all happen, shook his head then made a mental note to himself to not meddle with any situation ever again. They always escalated anyway. The warrior sighed then turned and strutted inside the Citadel where he was nearly knocked over by Namazuo.
“Gomen, Kondo-san, I didn’t see you there,” the raven haired sword said, apologetic looking then smiled; “But I was actually looking for you, Kondo-san. A new sword appeared, and truth to be told, Hachisuka is not pleased.”
Kondo quirked his eyebrows. “Why not?”
“Well…” Namazuo looked awkward for a moment then chuckled; “Hachisuka and this new sword are not on the best of terms.
Kondo nodded in understanding then asked curiously; “So, what’s his name?”
“Surprise!” Namazuo beamed then turned and motioned his arms into the direction had come from.
Right on cue, Kondo heard footsteps then saw the shadow of a person on the floor. By the looks of it the person was tall and muscular. Could it be…?
Kondo’s jaws dropped in awe when his eyes met with the new sword’s.
Sorry for the cliff-hanger, guys :3
Chapter 4: Nagasone vs Kanesada
Another, far from ordinary morning started at the Citadel. Hijikata sauntered sleepily down the hallway to join the long queue in front of the bathroom when he was suddenly run over by Kiyomitsu. Then, as if he wasn’t trampled onto enough, Yasusada followed soon after.
Hijikata sat up in rage then heaved his fist at the boys and shouted all sorts of insults.
“Sorry, Hijikata-san, but we are in a hurry!” Yasusada shouted back then disappeared around the corner into the next hallway, following his friend and partner.
Hijikata still shot some dagger looks even when the two boys were already long gone then suddenly noticed a shadow cast over him. When he looked up he saw Kunihiro smiling at him and offering his helping hand.
The Shinsengumi warrior took his sword’s hand then, when he finally stood back up his feet, Kanesada joined the queue, with purple paint and duck feathers stuck to his face. Kanesada didn’t seem to be aware of it, not even after scratching his face but, when he saw the odd expressions of the lined up swords and Hijikata, he couldn’t help but frown.
Kunihiro was the one who dared to point it out. Frustrated, Kanesada wiped the paint from his face then, as he looked at his stained fingers, the raven haired sword slowly started to begin to understand who was behind it.
“Kiyomitsu! Yasusada! I will get you for this!” Kanesada charged into the opposite direction of where the two swords ran into, earlier.
Hijikata sighed then said, tiredly; “They went that way, Kanesada.”
Without another word, Kanesada changed directions and kept running until he found the two swords talking with Kondo. The raven haired sword went at the two in a straight bee line.
As soon as the two spotted the angry sword, the happy smile on their faces melted into fear. Kiyomitsu recoiled then wailed; “Bodyguard!”
Kanesada didn’t get the opportunity to reach the two swords because he hit a wall, with force. The raven haired Uchigatana tumbled back on the floor. Then, with a confused groan, Kanesada looked up and noticed it hadn’t been a wall at all. It was a large man with short dark hair and orange under-cut. He had arms like tree trunks.
“Nagasone?!” Kanesada exclaimed in surprise when he realized he knew the muscular build man. He then scowled again and got up his feet, grumbling; “They still use you as their bodyguard, I see!”
Kiyomitsu nodded then commented with a pout; “Well, he didn’t have to but, once we told him you’ve been nothing but a bully to us…”
“And Hijikata-san, too!” Yasusada chimed in. “Nagasone insisted we needed protection.”
“Kiyomitsu and Yasusada need protection!” Nagasone said dangerously then cracked his knuckles. “I will protect Kiyomitsu and Yasusada!”
Kanesada couldn’t help but gulp nervously then backed away, slowly, pleading the Okita Swords with his eyes.
Kiyomitsu smirked; “Yeah, Kane always threatens to hurt us, Nagasone.”
“Nagasone, you know me. I would never…” Kanesada stuttered when he saw the muscular sword man closing in on him with a dangerous glow in his eyes. “I never hurt them, nor threaten them. You know that, right?”
Yasusada shook his head in disbelieve then sighed; “I can’t believe he just said that!”
“Yeah, me neither. Looks like we have to remind him of that time we accidentally shrunk his clothes in the washing machine.”
“That was not an accident!”
“Or that time we baked a cake for him and we slipped and his face got in the way,” Yasusada said, taking no notice of what Kanesada just said.
Nagasone still kept coming closer, shrinking the gap between him and Kanesada. The raven haired sword kept stepping back but, it was futile since Nagasone’s steps where bigger.
“Don’t forget that time we tried to give him a make-over and braided daisies in his hair, Yasusada,” Kiyomitsu grinned.
Kanesada turned red in rage then scolded; “So it had been you two, I knew it! I’m so gonna…”
“Gonna, what, Kanesada?!” Nagasone pierced his eyes deep into the raven haired Uchigatana. “That sounds like a threat, if I’m not mistaken.”
Kiyomitsu and Yasusada nodded simultaneously then the latter one said; “It was a threat!”
“Definitely a threat!” Kiyomitsu chimed in.
Feeling the wall in his back, Kanesada looked at Kondo then chocked out, frightened; “Kondo-san? Help?” Kondo just looked the other way, pretending he didn’t saw or heard anything. Nagasone cracked his knuckles for a second time and Kanesada closed his eyes, recoiled to the floor, and wailing softly; “Not my face. Not my face!”
Kanesada waited for Nagasone’s fist to take an impact on his face but instead felt the new sword’s hand slap his back, with force.
“You still haven’t changed, have you?!” Nagasone laughed while slapping Kanesada’s back, repeatedly. “Still easy to fool, am I right?!”
Kanesada glared angrily at his laughing friends and the Shinsengumi Commander.
Kanesada grumbled angrily to himself as he leaned against the training hall wall, his arms folded in front of his chest as he watched Nagasone wrap not only Kiyomitsu and Yasusada around his finger but also Kunihiro. And that part is what angered him the most. Kunihiro shouldn’t be impressed with Nagasone’s sword skills. He should be impressed with seeing his skills, only.
“Amazing!” Kunihiro gasped impressed as he and the two Okita Swords watch Kondo and Nagasone have a friendly sparing match. Both were a real match to one and another. Kunihiro smiled then turned to look at Kanesada and said; “You two should have a match next, Kane-san.”
Kanesada looked away with an angry scowl. No way he was going to do that. Not that he was scared he would lose to Nagasone but more like he was still angry for the prank he pulled on him, earlier. Not only Kiyomitsu and Yasusada had seen how scared he actually was for Nagasone, but also Kondo-san. What if he told Hijikata-san? His former Master would feel ashamed for having a scaredy-cat as a sword.
“Kane-san?” Kunihiro’s worried voice pulled the raven haired Uchigatana from his thoughts then saw him walk over. “Did something happen, Kane-san?”
“NO!” Kanesada replied a little too quick and saw how Kunihiro’s face melted from worried to suspicious. Kanesada inhaled a deep sigh then replied, more calmer; “I’m just not in the mood for sparing today, that’s all.”
Kunihiro’s signature smile returned then said; “I’m glad you’re okay. I was a little worried you would still feel angry about Kiyomitsu’s and Yasusada’s prank.”
“What?! They told you?!” Kanesada barked infuriated then stood tall, put his hands in his sides and harrumphed; “So you know, I faked being scared! I’m scared of no one and nothing!”
And with that, Kanesada turned on his heels to exit the training hall but bumped into Ookanehira who just entered.
“Oi! What do you think you’re...—Kanesada gulped anxiously when he saw the dangerous glow in the other sword’s eyes and decided to leave it. The last thing he wanted was to pick a fight with a sword that had more points for survival, leadership, killing blows, and mobility than him. The only things he was better at was scouting and camouflage but, at this moment that was not relevant.
Everyone present shared confused looks when Kanesada stepped around Ookanehira like a kicked dog then hurried away, mumbling something about suddenly remembering he promised to help Kasen with the laundry.
Kanesada emitted a heavy sigh as he sat outside on the porch and watched his brother, Kasen, hanging out the laundry. His mind kept wandering back to Kunihiro and the saddened look on his face when he suddenly started to yell at him. He never meant to raise his voice at his partner.
“I can’t believe someone feels comfortable to wear day in and day out the same old, dirty and ragged cloak!”
Kasen’s voice pulled Kanesada from his thoughts. The latter looked up and saw Yamanbagiri exit the Citadel and make his way to the cherry tree. Kanesada rolled his eyes. His brother still worried himself over other people’s fashion choice?
“You know, you can always try wash it with him still in it,” Kanesada replied dully as he laid back onto the porch, his hands underneath the back of his head for protection.
“Trust me. I’ve already tried that!” Kasen replied with a heavy sigh as he hung the freshly washed sheets onto the line, glaring at dirty cloaked sword in the distance. “Seriously, I even tried to drug him then wash his cloak while he was passed out on the floor. It didn’t work. It was like he knew.”
Kanesada glared at the porch roof then grumbled; “Yeah, I remember. But he only knew about your plan because Kiyomitsu warned him about it.”
“I knew he had something to do with it since he saw me putting the pills in Yamanbagiri’s tea! But he promised me he wouldn’t tell. I will never trust that little traitor, ever again!”
Kasen seemed really worked up about it, maybe because he had a deep hatred for dirty laundry, or OCD tendencies some might call it. Either way, if laundry or things weren’t sparkling and pristine white, Kasen made it his mission to do something about it. Even Gokatai’s little tiger pets weren’t save the first day they arrived at the Citadel. For some reason Kasen thought the black spots and stripes were mud and spend hours to try get it off.
“I just don’t get what is so cool about Nagasone!” Kanesada grumbled, changing the subject. “I mean, I’m even stronger on basically every level! Sure, his mobility and camouflage skills are slightly better than mine, but still. Strength is what really matters!”
Kasen turned his head at his brother than frowned; “I didn’t know we competed against one and another here.”
Kanesada sighed then sat up and said; “I’m not. It’s just that ever since Nagasone arrived, everyone seems glued onto him, even Kunihiro.”
“Ah…” Kasen replied, understanding the full picture all the sudden. His brother was jealous because, Kunihiro suddenly spends more time with another sword instead of being ‘dedicated’ to serving Kanesada drinks and snacks without him even having to ask for it. Kasen grinned slightly; “I see. It must feel different now you have to get your snacks yourself.”
Kanesada threw a stink-eye at his brother then snapped in defense; “So you know, I never asked him to do that! It even creeps me out sometimes! Besides, Kunihiro is more than my ‘assistant.’ He’s—never mind. You wouldn’t understand.”
Kasen tilted his head confused then realized it was maybe best to not push his brother. He would tell one he was ready. Kasen smiled warmly.
“Don’t worry, it will blow over. Every time a new sword arrives, we all wanna know more about him and stay close to this person for a while. On top of that, wasn’t Nagasone part of the Shinsengumi, too? To Kunihiro it will be probably be like hanging out with a friend.”
Kanesada grumbled something inaudible then suddenly Kiyomitsu’s voice echoed through the air.
“Make way for Nagasone, Kondo-san’s sword!” Kiyomitsu walked in front of Nagasone, his arms swinging wildly around as if he was try to clear a path through the crowd. It looked quite ridicules because there was no one standing in the way.
Kanesada rolled his eyes then grumbled; “Have either one of you asked Nagasone what he thinks of all this attention? This doesn’t make him blend in easy, you know?!”
Yasusada turned pale as if he was about to faint then gasped; “Kane, how dare you?! This is Nagasone, the sword that once belonged to Kondo-san, Commander of the Shinsengumi! He doesn’t need to blend in. He needs to stand out!”
“Yeah! Know your place, peasant!” Kiyomitsu smirked.
“PEASANT?!” Kanesada barked in utter rage. His brother had to hide a fit of laughter.
The raven haired Uchigatana would have attacked the younger sword if it hadn’t been for Gokatai to come burst outside with news about a new mission. Kanesada’s scowl grew once he heard he was selected for the mission, along with Yasusada, Kunihiro, and Nagasone. And as if that wasn’t already bad enough, Kiyomitsu was selected as Captain this time.
“Yes! I’m still loved!” The Okita-gumi sword cried happily.
Yasusada watched his friend and partner race inside to hop into his combat clothes. It had been a while since Kiyomitsu was chosen as Captain. He started to doubt if he was still needed. Kiyomitsu never showed tears (wasn’t cute according to him) but, Yasusada could always tell he was crying inside, quietly. Or when he thought no one was around to see his tears. The blue eyed sword smiled to himself then quickly hurried inside when his partner yelled for him to change in combat clothes as well.
“And suddenly they have forgotten all about Nagasone, the sword of Kondo-san, Commander of the Shinsengumi!” Kanesada grumbled as he watched Yasusada run off without a word.
Nagasone puffed out a breath of air then said, tiredly; “Actually, I’m glad they found something far more important to do. Don’t get me wrong, I missed them but…they can be so…so…” Nagasone looked thoughtful, searching for the right word.
“Annoying!” Kanesada grumbled.
Kasen chuckled; “Energetic, is what I would say.”
“Nope, annoying!” Kanesada grumbled. “Trust me, you would say the same thing if you spend more time with them.”
Kasen grabbed for the empty laundry basket then smiled as he went back on his way inside; “I rather keep a safe distance between them and me. Only watching them is already tiring enough.”
“Tiring! My thoughts exactly.”
Kanesada looked slowly between Kasen and Nagasone then scowled; “I stick to ‘annoying’. And the fact they are selected for the same mission as us, makes me wanna…
“Kane-san?! I prepared your combat clothes for you!” Kunihiro suddenly called out, poking his head outside the window of their quarters.
Suddenly Kiyomitsu’s head poked out the window of their own quarters and grinned; “All what’s left to do for you is to put it on, unless you wish for Kunihiro to undress you and…
“SHUT UP!” Kanesada clenched his fists then threw a dagger glare at the smirking Okita-sword by the window. The warm blush of embarrassment that was about to heat his face told him it was best to just let it pass but, next time he would give the sword a good ear pummel for his stupid comments. Without another word, Kanesada turned around quickly, to hide the warm blush he was about to lose the ‘battle’ with and now crept up to his ears.
“Kane-san? Are you feeling ill?” Kunihiro asked, mistaking the blush for fever.
Kanesada quickly cleared his throat then replied; “No, it’s just really hot outside, that’s all. He then rushed inside the bathroom to give his face a quick, cold splash of water.
Hijikata walked inside the room he shared with his human swords then found them geared up and ready for leaving. He looked at the two, one at the time then stopped them for a moment.
“I want you two to be careful out there and come back in one piece.” Both Kanesada and Kunihiro looked at their former master with confusion when they saw the worried look in his eyes. It was only there for a split-second, though. Hijikata quickly tried to hide it with a smile and said jokingly; “Preferably unscratched. You guys know how much I hate scratches.”
“We will, Hijikata-san,” Kanesada replied and Kunihiro nodded. Kanesada then glanced out the window where both Kiyomitsu and Yasusada stood talking with Okita, Kondo, and Nagasone. Kiyomitsu was beaming like a radiant sun. Kanesada sighed then muttered; “I just hope Kiyomitsu will act like a responsible Captain.”
Kunihiro chuckled; “I doubt he will show any of his strange antics and pranks while being on this mission, you’ll see. I have been on sorties with him before and he behaved perfectly. It was almost scary, like he has an on-off switch or something.”
“I wish he turned the switch off more often, then…” Hijikata grumbled, stealing glances at the young sword outside the window. He then sighed. “But I guess you could be right, Kunihiro. I was quite stunned to see Souji transform from being a prankster to a responsible Captain in matter of seconds.”
Kanesada still looked doubtful, though, he was ready for the mission. So did Kunihiro. Hijikata followed the two out as they met up with Nagasone and the two Okita-swords.
“About time!” Kiyomitsu said as he turned around and watched the two Hijikata-swords approach them then immediately started to explain the location and information of their time-travel. “Our location time will be August 16th 1864 in Kyoto. The Chōshū clan planned attack on the emperor on the 20th, the so called ‘The Kinmon Incident.’ We have to make sure the Satsuma troops get there to stop the Chōshū clan in time.”
Hijikata stroked his chin then asked; “August 1864, huh? Is there a chance we can come along again?”
Kiyomitsu narrowed his eyes in suspicion then grumbled; “Are you saying you don’t trust me as a Captain of this team?”
“I have to admit you can act wild and your pranks are annoying, (not to mention your girl-like habits), but I think you are a very suitable Captain. You are a sword of Souji after all, who’s also an annoying prankster at times but, I hate to admit it, is a capable and responsible Captain of the Shinsengumi. The only reason I want us to come along is that I know a bit about the Chōshū clan from back in 1863. You’ll be needing as much men as you can get, especially if you guys fail to protect the Satsuma troops.”
Kiyomitsu straightened his back then said, confident; “We won’t fail, Hijikata-san, because failing is not an option!”
Kondo shared a look with Hijikata then asked, politely; “Kiyomitsu, may I? I fully trust you guys are capable and strong enough but, I have to agree with Hijikata here. It’s always good to be prepared for unexpected things.”
Souji nodded agreed. Kiyomitsu then looked at the others to see what they thought of the idea. It was not only his former master he had to decide for. The others just gave him a meaningful look, gentle smile, or nod indicating they were fully behind his decision. Whatever that decision was.
Kiyomitsu thought for another minute and realized it maybe wasn’t that bad to be a little extra prepared.
“Fine!” Kiyomitsu finally said then stole a few glances at Hijikata and grumbled; “As long as Hijikata-san remembers I’m pulling the strings here!”
Hijikata felt offended instantly then huffed; “You little—Kondo-san is the one you should be worried about. He’s the Commander after all, and I’m just a mere Vice-Commander!”
“Mere, yah right?!” Kiyomitsu snorted.
Hijikata would have given him an ear smack for it but, the time travel device already started the transportation.