Chapter 68: Portrait of an Ambitious Man

Copyright© 2011 by Murasame

(As Kenshin and Saitou approach the inn, Soujirou is waiting for them at the front gate.)

Soujirou: Mr. Himura Battousai, and Mr. Saitou Hajime.

Kenshin (thinking): That voice... (aloud) Be careful, Saitou. This is the man who killed Governor Okubo.

Soujirou: Oh no no no, today I'm just your guide. Look, I'm not even armed. Mr. Shishio is waiting for you inside. Please come in.

Saitou: We can't start out being this cautious. Let's go.

(Shishio sits on a cushion, smoking a pipe.)

Yumi: Lord Shishio, a drink after your bath?

Shishio: They're here.

Kenshin: You're ... Shishio Makoto?

Shishio: Call me Shishio, my rude predecessor.

Kenshin: Don't let it bother you. The rudeness is on both sides.

Saitou (to Soujirou): Hey, are you sure you want him to just stand there? Battousai could kill Shishio in a single leap.

Soujirou: Oh, it's all right. Mr. Himura isn't like you, Mr. Saitou. He'd never try anything as dishonorable as a surprise attack.

Saitou (thinking): He saw right through me.

(In the village. Eiji picks up his brother's sword.)

Misao: Wait a minute! Where do you think you're going with that thing?

Eiji: Shishio's inn. For revenge.

Misao: What? You'll never make it.

Eiji: Whether I can or not is not that problem! It's whether I do or don't! I'm already alone. My life means nothing to me.

Misao: Wait!

Eiji: What? If you're just trying to get in my way--

Misao: Idiot. Senkaku won't be alone at Shishio's inn. Shishio's important; the place'll be crawling with those masked soldiers. You won't make it past the front gates. So I'll help you. (thinking) I understand his feelings. If the Oniwabanshuu were killed I'd throw away my life to get revenge! Sorry, Himura, but I have to help him!

Eiji: You can follow me, but don't get in my way.

(Misao kicks him.)

Kenshin: Why did you target this place? You're after the whole country, not one or two little villages.

Shishio: For the hot springs. The hot springs are good for my burnt skin. But I was afraid the other bathers would see me, so I had to take them.

Kenshin: You ... for this alone you would terrorize an entire village...

Shishio: I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Learn how to take a joke. You're as serious as the rumors say you are.

Saitou (bonking him): Temper, temper. You take a joke about as well as that girl does.

(as they sneak in, Misao sneezes.)

Shishio: This village will make a strong military base for dominating the Toukai region. Although I do like the hot springs.

Kenshin: Shishio--

Saitou: You keep quiet. So with this base you intend to exact revenge from the Meiji government for those bandages, young man?

Shishio: Saitou, captain of the Shinsengumi third unit ... You're more like me than Battousai is, so I thought you could understand me better, but looks like I was wrong. I have no intention of seeking revenge from those who gave me these bandages. Rather I should thank them. They taught me things which have sunk into my soul. "If you trust, you will be betrayed." "If you are careless, you will die." "Kill, or be killed." And, "A good man is never far from a woman."

Saitou: Well, could you keep it down then? I'm tired of running all over Japan all for your sake.

There is more of this chapter...

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