The Raven and The Wolf
a side story to "To Forgive and Forget" by Ayame-chan
DISCLAIMERS: You know the routine...right??
AUTHORESS NOTES: Okay, you don't really have to read "To Forgive and Forget" before this, but I'm just warning you that it does sorta fall into its timeline. While trying to write and continue on the main story, THIS pops up and says "write me!" My lil' version on how Saitoh and Tokio met. Enjoy!
Damn it, where is he? the man thought as he searched through the blanket of darkness. There was no help of the moon tonight, which made this chase even more difficult.
The man was a samurai in his early twenties with a thin, wolf-like face, and hair and eyes that matched the blanket of darkness that surrounded him. He paused in mid-chase and waited. His blue and white uniform was stained with blood, his sword still clean. The assault to prevent the Ishin Shishi create another mass attack on the chaotic city of Kyoto had gone well...but somebody interfered. And that somebody was someone that Saitoh Hajime, third captain of the Shinsengumi, wanted to capture.
His enemy was someone of cunning and quickness, realizing after some of his best men fell prey to. He was also aware that he was the primary target and nobody else. After easily, almost too easily, avoiding Okita's attack, the ninja jumped away to safety in the rooftops with the entire Shinsengumi playing a game of cat and mouse, them being the mice. A few times while chasing the ninja in the darkness did he have to parry, but before Saitoh could counterattack, his enemy leaped away as if taunting him. Mibu's Wolf did not like to be prey.
A dark shadow above caught his eye. Saitoh smiled cruelly. I've found you.
He patiently waited for the perfect time to strike. As the ninja began to descend, Saitoh quickly executed the overhead Gatotsu, taking the ninja by surprise. He had managed to avoid getting impaled, but he was wounded deep in the shoulder. Saitoh tried to use the injury to his advantage, but the ninja threw out a smoke bomb hidden in its robes and disappeared. Cursing to himself, Saitoh stepped out of the alleyway to get a "brighter" view of his sword and wiped the blood away with one quick flick of the wrist.
"Saitoh-san!" a voice called behind him.
He turned to find Okita and other members of the Shinsengumi. Their clothes, too, were stained with blood, but none were theirs.
"Were you able to capture him, Saitoh-san?" Okita asked in his usual soft tone.
"Ie," he replied dully, sheathing his katana. "Only a blow to the shoulder."
"Sou ka..." Okita murmured and nodded at Saitoh's underlying meaning to his words. They would have to look for a person, man or woman, with a freshly injured shoulder.
"How many have died?" Saitoh asked in a bored tone. Years of fighting had made him indifferent to material loss, but it was duty that told him to ask the question.
"Around five were killed instantly, eight heavily injured when we gave chase," the fourth captain of the Shinsengumi, Matsubara Tadaji, replied. "Shinpachi was also among those injured."
At this, Saitoh arched a curious eyebrow. That idiot?
If it hadn't been for a veyr lucky win during the choosing of the captains, Saitoh would have ended up being second captain. He was silently pleased of Shinpachi's injury.
"How bad?" he asked out of curiousity.
"It's not life threatening," Okita said. "He has a slight scratch across the chest, but that's it. He was quick enough to avoid the enemy's full impact."
"Hn," came Saitoh's reply.
"We should go back to Takagi-san's home," Okita suggested. "Our job is finished, for now."
The other men nodded in agreement and followed the young captain back to their patron's home. Saitoh remained for a moment before following.
The Takagi household was deathly still. A shadow leaped across the yard into an empty room and quickly slid the door closed behind it before removing its mask. The ninja revealed to be a young woman of fair complexion, her midnight hair spilling across her shoulders and ending down at her waist, her eyes of a chocolate brown. Beads of sweat dripped down her face, her hand tightly clutching her shoulder to prevent more bleeding. She leaned against the door for a second, breathing heavily from the lack of blood, before she gained enough strength to treat her wound and change.
Her katana was hidden underneath the mat as she changed her disguise, its blade spotless, but there still was the scent of new blood that lingered.
The Shinsengumi patiently waited for their hidden passage to open. After a few minutes, it did open to reveal the youngest daughter of the Takagi family, Takagi Tokio. Saitoh once in a while caught glimpses of her walking around the gardens, taking care of her pregnant cousin, but this was the first time that he actually saw her entirely. Her chocolate brown eyes put him in a trance that he could not tear his gaze from.
"Ara, Tokio-san, you shouldn't stay up so late just waiting for us," Tani, seventh and one of the youngest captains, replied. He, like many of the other young men in their group, quickly fell in love with the young heir.
Nobody could blame them, though. Takagi Tokio was a very charming and intriguing young woman, the last daughter who would be turning the age when one should be wed off. Takagi Kikuo was a man of ideals, but he was also a protective father over his three daughters, especially Tokio. Since the two elder duaghters were already wed to good families, every male tried to take advantage of Tokio's innocence and all have failed.
Saitoh, though, was one of the few who didn't even bother. He did feel a slight attraction to the young woman, but nothing more than slight attraction. There were more important things to worry about than marriage and love, if there was any in this time. He snapped back into reality when Tokio's typically sweet voice replied, "Ie, Tani-san, I'm fine. Besides, otousama knows that I'm a night owl."
She opened the door a bit wider for the men to pass through before closing the passage again and leading the pack back to the Takagi home. The wound in her shoulder still ached, but Tokio expertly hid her pain as she bid her guests good night in their rooms. Saitoh was the last.
"Oyasumi nasai," Tokio said, lowering her eyes and beginning to leave the room.
"Tokio-san," Saitoh called out, noticing something odd in her movements. She turned around, her eyes beginning to captivate his attention again. He managed to resist and asked, "What is wrong with your arm? You seem to be moving it awkwardly."
"Oh, it's nothing," Tokio sweetly lied. Oh, how she could lie. "I was carrying too heavy a load of water to my cousin and they are rather sore."
"Sou..." Saitoh murmured, deep in thought. "Maa, be careful when you do chores like that again."
Tokio nodded. "I will. Oyasumi."
As soon as she slid the door closed and far off from Saitoh's view, Tokio clutched her shoulder to ease the pain and quickly left to her room.
Sasaki Aiko waddled around the Takagi home early the next morning, feeling the need for exercise. She was well into her seventh month of pregnancy carrying not one, but two children in her womb. She was so big that it was awfully hard to walk around, and her husband often joked to her that she looked like that she ate a large watermelon whole, much to her dismay. Although she was a pregnant mother of two with two more on the way, Aiko had a secret that few knew.
Most of the hitokiris during the Bakumatsu no Doran were men, but there were two infamous female hitokiris: Hitokiri Kaede and Hitokiri Rekka. Hitokiri Kaede was a hitokiri of the shadows, but Aiko was much different. Her identity was Hitokiri Rekka was the twins sister of Battousai in both elusion and ruthlessness.
"Aiko, what are you doing up?" Tokio asked, surprised.
"I just wanted to walk around for once," she replied to her cousin and saw the noticeable red stain on her shoulder.
Glancing around quickly to see if anyone was in the proximity, Aiko stepped inside her cousin's room and closed the door behind her.
"What happened?" she asked quietly.
"The mission didn't fare so well," Tokio replied, sitting back down on her futon. She shrugged off her kimono to reveal the already stained bandages wrapped around her shoulder.
While taking off the bandages, Aiko examined the would more closely. She hissed at just the sight of it.
"You're being careless around him," she murmured to Tokio. She began replacing the bandages with fresh ones. "I'm surprised that you managed to avoid from getting impaled."
"It's the same Gatotsu stance, but in a different position," Tokio informed. "I wasn't being careless; I just didn't expect him to learn and master the different positions of his technique already."
"The Shinsengumi are known to specialize in one move," Aiko said her thoughts aloud. She finished wrapping the shoulder wound and patted it gently. "There, all new. Change it in four hours."
"Arigatou," Tokio replied and stood up, searching through her closet for her best kimono. There was a pause as she found a decent one to wear for the day. "He did ask me about my shoulder last night. Is it really that noticeable how I move?"
Aiko sighed. Although the two cousins were the same age, Aiko had a bit more experience in real like than Tokio because she had first drawn blood at the tender age of four.
"Ie, it's not. I can barely notice the way you carry your arm," she replied. "Saitoh has a good eye on the detailed."
Tokio would not comment on her cousin's words as she dressed herself for the day. I will get him for sure.
....to Chapter Two