Chapter 48: the Wolf Revived
Copyright© 2011 by Murasame
(A battlefield, long ago. Battousai stands amid fallen members of the Shinsengumi.)
Saitou: Okita. Stand aside.
Okita: No, there's no need to worry. I, after all, am the captain of the Shinsengumi first unit.
Saitou: But you have tuberculosis, don't you? I'm not blind. The captain of the Shinsengumi third unit, Saitou Hajime, will kill Hitokiri Battousai.
(He drops into his characteristic stance; right leg forward, sword held in the left hand parallel to the body, right hand held in front along the blade. Battousai brings up his own sword.)
Saitou: Let's go.
(He blinks. He is sitting in the Maekawa dojo; Kaoru and Yahiko are staring at him.)
Yahiko: Hey, wake up.
Kaoru: Practice is over, Kenshin.
Kenshin: Kenshin... ?
(Kaoru and Yahiko exchange looks, then smack a cheek each.)
Yahiko: You, dummy. You know any other Kenshins?
Kaoru: What, are you still asleep? Come on, we're going home. (dragging him off)
(On the way home.)
Kaoru: You usually sleep lightly, so I think when you sleep deeply, you're dreaming of the past.
Kenshin: It's been a while since I dreamed of those days.
Yahiko: The Shinsengumi? You mean the famous rivals of the Ishin Shishi?
Kenshin: Yes. The ones I crossed swords with I don't know how many times. The Shinsengumi was originally a unit employed by the Bakufu's Kyoto Defense (in Aizu), with the Edo Tama region swordsmen, who passed through many vicissitudes of fortune, at their core. They wielded the swords to protect the peace of Kyoto, when the Ishin Shishi wasn't yet organized and acted one by one, making Kyoto a demon city of blood and drawn swords. Under their scarlet flag bearing the character for loyalty and in their striped light yellow jackets, they were also known as the Miburo* who shook Kyoto with their swordsmanship and absolute lack of fear of death. They were defeated by modern weapons and disappeared into the past, but they were probably the greatest fighting force in the history of Japan; the largest, the strongest and the last great group of swordsmen. *At the time the unit was formed, they were stationed at the village of Mibu, so they were called the Wolves of Mibu or Miburo.
Kaoru: But they were best at group swordsmanship, fighting many against one. That's cowardly.
Kenshin: It's because they first worked to maintain the public peace. Naturally they couldn't fight proper duels. And when you speak of strength, of course there were individual differences. But the officers--the company captains of the first, second and third units, out of the ten, were undoubtedly strong.
Yahiko: If it's a unit, why "company captain"? (Isn't that kind of strange?)
Kenshin: I don't know. (Why ask me?) But the first and second, and then the third captain ... no matter how many times we faced each other, we never reached a conclusion. (a pause) I've heard that most of them have died by now ... It's too bad.
Yahiko: What're you being so nice for? Weren't they your enemies?