Chizuru is often quiet, but when she laughs, it’s rain. She’s joined the captains again for dinner, as has become her custom, and Hijikata steadfastly pretends the girl doesn’t exist. That seems to suit her fine.
Chizuru isn’t a spectacle. She watches and listens as Heisuke and Shinpachi argue over thefts of food, and she flinches when Souji says something particularly barbaric, but she doesn’t say much herself unless spoken to directly.
Sano doesn’t know her well, but he thinks she seems rather sweet.
Oh, thank you for the tea!
Gen-san, could I be of help?
P-perhaps Heisuke-kun would like some of my tempura?
That last one had Hesiuke gaping like a fish. Shinpachi had laughed like a mad man, and Heisuke tackled him before Gen-san put an end to their madness right quick.
Tonight, she’s sitting seiza and sipping her tea with an elegance Sano often associates with–oddly enough–Saito. Sano’s respect for Saito has increased since the girl arrived. Sano is confident that Saito would dispatch Chizuru without hesitation at Hijikata’s command, but he’s equally confident that–excluding execution of a direct order–he’ll continue to accommodate the girl as respectfully as possible. While he cannot know for sure, Sano thinks the Vice-Commander has assigned Saito to be some sort of honor guard given his duties include escorting her to and from her daily ablutions.
Sano’s pulled from musings by recitation. Souji lounges against the wall finishing the dregs of his cup, but now he holds a book.
“Honeyed lips are/ the distraction of a man/ Savor victory. ”
Hijikata freezes. He eyes Souji, and his voice is calm, but he appears only moments away from a Genzaburo-censure worthy tackle of his own. “Where did you get that?”
“Ai-ya! This? Someone left a book of poetry under the floorboards. This one’s better!” He clears his throat. “Crickets chirping out/ Romance of our Edo days/and our Edo nights.” Hijikata lunges, and the troublemaker dances out of reach.
“Idiot, whose floorboards are you scavenging!? Hand it over!”
Saito scrambles–if anything Saito does can be described in such a way–out of the line of fire, and Hijikata chases Souji toward the corner of the room.
“Her 1000 cranes/navigate beneath the clouds/ a whisper in white,” Souji chants.
“Now, now, gentlemen,” begins Kondou, hands raised in a placating manner.
Hijikata’s holding Souji by the hatori now, but they both turn abruptly as Chizuru finally erupts.
Her laughter sounds like raindrops on the roof, flowers blooming from the mouth of spring. “I’m sorry-!” She gasps, still giggling. The room is staring, but she doesn’t seem to realize. If she does, she cannot stop. “I just– Hi-Hijikata-san! It’s a lovely poem, really, but–Okita-san, you–!!”
As she laughs, something breaks within the room. Souji smirks. Hijikata practically throws his hands away from the younger man, stalking back toward his cushion. Heisuke’s turning red.
Shinpachi laughs too, one large hand slapping his own thigh, and even Saito…smiles.
Sano thinks she echoes like the monastery bells.
Did you catch the references to two of my other fics? One is easy, but one ??might?? be more difficult.
“Iba also thinks so,”
Anyway, the rest of this particular fic (so far) can be read here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/25188280/chapters/61043815