1864, October (pt 1)
Incidents at the Ikedaya and Kinmon Rebellion left the Shinsengumi on high alert. Interference from the unique group of… whoever they were… was unwelcome at best and an outright danger at worst. The larger man had seriously injured Heisuke, and Souji–laughing in pursuit of his revenge–would often speak to the bastardry of the second, but it was from personal experience with one Shiranui Kyo that Sanosuke knew the mysterious triad were not to be taken lightly.
On a similarly concerning note, Itou’s newfound presence around the compound also proved to be unwelcome at best, with the jury still out on whether or not they could trust the man.
“He’s a dandy, that guy, isn’t he?” Souji smirks, wiping the blood from his sword.
Harada cringes as he shrugs out of his hatori. “I don’t know if that’s the only word I’d use to describe him, but you’re not wrong,” he says.
There’s something sharp in Souji’s eyes, but his next words are deceptively light. “I caught him messing with Chizuru-chan behind the hall the other night.”
Sanosuke freezes like a startled rabbit and, in an equally casual tone replies, “Oh, really?”
Souji smiles, a feral thing. “Yeah.” His voice is lilting. “Supposedly, it was something or other about requesting refreshments for his room. Naturally, I got Heisuke to deliver them.” Sliding his sword back into its scabbard, he stands. “Poor little Chizuru-chan. Unarmed even if she could defend herself. I wonder why she doesn’t carry her sword…”
He clasps a hand on Sanosuke’s shoulder as he makes his way past him toward the hall proper. “Makes a pretty poor excuse for a man, don’t you think?”
On his way to the washhouse, Sanosuke breathes. He breathes deeply and intentionally, and when he no longer feels in danger of ripping Itou’s head from his shoulders, he seeks out Heisuke in his room.
The younger man startles as Sanosuke slides open the door. Heisuke’s attention was fixed on an illustration of two warriors in battle regalia fighting what looked to be an Oni, but Harada draws it quickly. “What’s up, Sano-san?” he asks, putting his text away.
“That night,” Sanosuke hears himself asking, “when Chizuru first came to the compound, you knew she wasn’t a man, didn’t you?”
Heisuke’s eyebrows wrinkle. “No,” he says. “I mean, I thought she was rather pretty,” he blushes, “but I didn’t think she was a girl. Not necessarily.” He shakes his head. “Do you think that’s offensive? I can’t imagine mistaking her for a boy now…”
“Heisuke,” Sanosuke interrupts. “Itou’s causing problems.”
Heisuke sits up straighter then. “What sort of problems?”
“I know he’s your friend, but we can’t leave him alone with Chizuru.”
Heisuke’s face pales two shades. “What… what did he do? Is Chizuru alright?” He scrambles to his feet before Sanosuke realizes what he’s done. He shakes his head.
“No, no–I mean, yes! Yes, Chizuru is fine. She’s fine for now.” He sinks wearily to the floor into agura position, and Heisuke follows. “She’s fine, Heisuke, but Itou’s already giving her too much attention.” He scrubs a hand across his face. “If he doesn’t know she’s a woman already, he’ll figure it out soon, and woman or not, he’s already gotten too close to her.”
“What do you mean, ‘too close to her,’ Sano-san?” Heisuke’s color hasn’t quite returned, but he seems reassured. “Of course, I’ll do what I can to help avoid a misunderstanding, but even if he knew, Itou isn’t the kind of guy to go after a girl like that. I don’t think he’d hurt her or anything.”
Sanosuke eyes him speculatively, and Heisuke doubles down. “I mean it, Sano-san! I know Itou can be a bit much–I wouldn’t call him my friend, by the way–but I don’t think Chizuru has anything really to worry about. I wouldn’t have suggested he join if I did.”
Sanosuke doesn’t know how to put into words his exchange with Souji, their unspoken understanding.
“I didn’t think you would,” he admits, “but we need to keep our guard up.”
“Of course,” Heisuke agrees easily. He looks at Sanosuke askew. “But, Sano-san? Are you feeling okay? This isn’t really like you, man.”
“I’m fine,” he says. “I’m fine.” He stands and moves toward the door. “Just make sure you remember what I told you. Harmless or not, there’s no reason he needs to be close to her.”
Harmless, my ass, he thinks as he slides the screen behind him. With renewed purpose, he makes his way toward the pine where he knows Shinpachi is napping. He’ll pick up Saito on the way.
You’ll notice I decided not to break up September into multiple parts. The extra scene I had planned for September would really fit in better elsewhere, and October is a two- to three-part section already.
Also, I totally take credit for the word “bastardry” lol.
Anyway, thanks for the support! This chapter came out a lot faster than normal. Pretty soon I’ll have to get into an anime re-watch to make sure my timeline for 1865 makes sense, but re-watching Hakuouki is never a bad thing. ❤
I hope you all are staying well!