Chapter 62: On the Meiji Toukai Way
Copyright© 2011 by Murasame
Sanosuke. Kaoru and Yahiko. And now Shinomori Aoshi make their separate ways to Kyoto, with their own thoughts in their hearts. Passer-by: What's this?
Another: Looks like a swordsman, but doesn't he know there's an edict against carrying swords? Best not to get too close to him.
(Kenshin walks down the road, ignoring all the attention his sword attracts.)
Boy: Wow, a sword!
Passer-by: A sword, now. That's risky. Better let sleeping dogs lie.
(Flashback to two days ago--)
Saitou: So you've finally made up your mind to go to Kyoto. Said your goodbyes to the Kamiya girl? Sorry, a slip of the tongue. From now on we'll be fighting together against the Shishio faction, so we'll have to get along.
Kenshin: Fighting together?
Saitou: Yes. In the aftermath of Okubo's assassination, Kawaji took on many more responsibilities, and he put me in command of the force in Kyoto. What's the long face for?
Saitou: Well, come on. If we leave for Yokohama now, we'll be in time to catch the first ship to Osaka.
Kenshin: No. I'm going by the Toukai Way.
Saitou: What, no money? The navy will--
Kenshin: That's not it. As you saw in the assassination of Governor Okubo, Shishio's men could appear when they are least expected. I've been thinking about what would happen if they attacked suddenly on a ship. There's nowhere to run on a ship, and bystanders who know nothing of this could become involved.
Saitou: You still think like a vagabond. It would be better for you if you returned to the Hitokiri instead of this peace-loving fool. (putting a hand to his sword.) Maybe I should fight you again here.
Kenshin: I'll fight you whenever you like, but I have no desire to become Battousai ever again. I don't want to involve anyone in this. That's why I chose to go alone.
Saitou: Well, fine. Whatever road you take, you won't have any problem getting to Kyoto. It would take an ordinary person ten days by that route, but for you, five should be enough. But this is no pleasure trip. Shishio has a net of informants all over the country like a spider's web. He should know of your every movement. Don't forget. The battle with Shishio has already begun.
Kenshin (thinking, back to the present): Carrying a sword while I walk, no one will come near me. No one will get involved--
(A police whistle sounds behind him.)
Kenshin: Oro ro.
Policeman: Hey, hey! You've got some nerve carrying a sword right in broad daylight!
(Kenshin runs for it.)
Connecting Nihon Bridge to Kyoto Sanjouoo Bridge (a distance of 492 kilometers) the Toukai Way was an important road from ancient times. However, in Meiji 5 (1872) railroads were being laid from Shinbashi to Yokohama, so the number of people who still traveled the country on foot was decreasing. Odowara is the first big city on the way from Tokyo. It lies just before the most dangerous pass, the Hakone-Goe, so it's usual for travelers to spend the night there before going on. Girls in front of an inn: The Odaya! Stay at the Odaya! The Odaya! It's cheap, the Odaya! Hey, where are you going, swordsman? Stay a night here!
Kenshin: No, I'm in a hurry tonight.
Girl: In a hurry? It's already getting dark! You'll be in the deep in the Hakone mountains when night falls!