Chapter 178: The Night Wears On...

Copyright© 2011 by Murasame

And so time passed... 1865. The Second Subjugation of Choushuu. Takasugi Shinsaku, in spite of his illness, took command of the Choushuu army and led them to victory like the god of war himself. Without seeing the dawn of the new era, he died two years later. His death poem was "I made an uninteresting world interesting." His life was such that he wrote only the first line of the poem, not the last...

1868. The Boshin War. Saitou Hajime was separated from the mainforce in the third battle of the Aizu war. Duels to the death spread around him until the last. After the new era, he took refuge in Aizu. At the time of the Seinan War, he participated in the government forces Keishichoo Battoutai. Afterwards, he lived as police lieutenant Fujita Gorou. The Shinsengumi fought on in various places in the north. The fifth unit fought unflinchingly in the Hakedata War before disbanding.

(A flag is raised over a battlefield.)

Soldier: The Bakufu is retreating!

In the midst of all this, the first unit fought at Toba Fushimi-- Soldiers: We did it, we won! It's the dawn of a new era!

Kenshin (thinking): So it's over ... finally...

Commander: Himura, over here! The fourth unit of the Shinsengumi is still fighting towards Fushimi!

(Kenshin turns to look behind him, and for an instant see Enishi staring coldly at him.)

Kenshin: Enishi!!

(But he's gone.)

Commander: What is it?

Kenshin (thinking): ... Enishi ... His hair was snow white. That's the form his pain took ... It's not over. It's not over yet...

1877. Saigou Takamori's uprising in the Seinan War. Katsura Kogorou, overworked, was frequently bedridden. In the midst of the Seinan War, he died. His dying words were, "I nearly did it, didn't I, Saigo?" He died guided the country to its future even to the end--

1878. Shishio Makoto's coup d'etat. However, this battle would never be recorded in history.

Two months later.

(Kenshin finishes his story.)

Silence ... No one could speak a word. They soon left the place. (Kaoru, Tsubame and Megumi are in bed. Tsubame lies awake; she finally sits up.)

Kaoru: You can't sleep, Tsubame? Can't help it, I guess ... This is scary. I'm sorry you had to be involved.

Tsubame: Oh. No, it's not that. It's just, Tomoe ... and Kenshin ... I feel so sorry for them.

Megumi: I wonder if you should feel sorry for Tomoe. To die protecting the one you love ... She literally loved him until the day she died. That's not bad. If I had been in her place, I would have done the same thing, without a second thought.

Tsubame (thinking): Megumi...

Kaoru: Maybe you're right ... But her fate was sad. Between two men, one she killed and one who killed her ... The two men she loved were two sides of the same coin, as if there was some karmic connection she couldn't escape. If Kyosato hadn't met Kenshin ... If Kenshin hadn't been the one to kill him ... I think Tomoe was a very rational person. That's why, when she had to choose between Kyosato and Kenshin, she couldn't even compare them...

Megumi: You're taking her side pretty strongly.

Kaoru: That wasn't my intention.

Megumi: Don't tell me you're admitting defeat to a dead woman!

Kaoru: I am not! It's not about winning or not winning!

Megumi: Oh really? Then if you had been in her position, could you have died like she did?

Kaoru: I couldn't.

Megumi: I thought not.

Kaoru: That's not what I meant! If I died, then Kenshin would blame himself and be in more pain. That's why, no matter what happens, I will not die!

Megumi: You--then you'd have forgotten all about Kyosato. You're not in Tomoe's situation at all.

Kaoru: Oh...

Megumi: But ... that's all right. I don't want to see Ken-san hurt any more either. And you're not a substitute for Tomoe. (turning back into bed) Well, let's get some sleep. If we talk any more about this Tsubame will break.

(Tsubame, caught between their arguing, is white and frozen.)

Kaoru: Tsubame!

Tsubame: Hah?

Megumi: Good night.

Kaoru: Wait, Megumi!

(Sanosuke is sitting outside the dojo. Yahiko walks up.)

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