heh smoke!

Fujita Goro - The Journal of Saitou Hajime

Through many wounds, there is comfort, for I have found integrity.

Looking Back and Moving Forward
heh smoke!
fujita_goro

My writer as I’ve said before is an audiophile. She likes every music genre especially the romantic Japanese ones from Anime. *rolls eyes* So… It’s no wonder that she found this song while acting as my “ward” in an alternate universe that she forced me to exist in… The whole idea she had I think, being the sap that she was, she’ll have me commit a big mistake for Japan or perhaps just be my paranoid self such that I’ll have to leave my loved one… Of course she’s a sucker for happy endings so it will be the stereotypical ending where I return to where I belong. To where someone was waiting patiently and that love can make the impossible, possible.

See the only problem was that she couldn’t make an accurate guess of the future. If the person whom I am bound to was actually the right person for someone like myself. Perhaps the problem is she “assumed” her to be and had too high of a hope. Tokio my wife, indeed I know her to be an equal and probably a better person than myself, but then again just because you have the name Tokio does not mean she’s the person I know. 

That's how I found her...Collapse )

To Kill a Brother
thinking evening
fujita_goro

“Weren’t you a Shinsengumi!!?”

He shouts and I point my rifle at him.

“Put down your katana and come quietly. I will not repeat myself.”

“Traitor!”

I slow down my breathing, keeping intact in my mind, the reasons why I am here fighting under Okubo’s command. However my eyes narrow, but not from anger, that much I know.

“Death to all cowards… And traitors to bushido!”

He rushes to come close. I do not know who he is or how he knows of me.

I am no longer Saitou Hajime…

I wait for him to fling his sword. If he has any sense in him he will give himself a chance, but he doesn’t and I’m reminded of Yoshimura-kun, the idiot who got himself killed rushing into enemy lines. That same person who saved my life once. The whistling going past my ears and a loud crackling in the air takes me back to Toba-Fushimi, to Kyoto and Aizu. These things are always the same for some reason and they are defeaning to the ears… Blinding to the eyes… The noise and smoke, it is all the same.

Stop idiot… STOP!!!

My mind screams as he comes closer, his katana from what I can see is already chipped and cracked. His breast plate hanging by only one strap and shakily sways as he runs towards me. A samurai… Lost in the old world. I could accuse him of fearing change but if he was truly a coward…

Taking my aim, my arm shakes slightly. The barrel of the rifle seems to shudder and all I can see is a demon running with his armor hiding the haori underneath…

Shoot… And get this over with…

My finger close on the trigger slowly but sure… The era has passed and there is no need for the likes of him. As the color of asagiroo swarm my vision I see white triangles on his sleeves. He was truly a demon… And I see his face continuously change one by one the face of my comrades etch in his skin. My best friend, my commander, my mentor and finally… to myself.

This can’t be…

But a familiar phrase shouts in my ears.

Makoto! Shun that which opposes the way of the samurai!

This time I pull the trigger, my aim sure and unwavering. Today I kill a man… A brother… A son of this country, I think to myself as I smell the gunpowder and fight against the recoil of the gun against my shoulder

His body slumps to the ground but the cross fire continues. I stop and stare.

It was all just an illusion earlier…

He twitches and I knew he was still alive. In pain but not dead…

He will need a second…

I look and he’s close enough and I crawl to where he is.

“Traitor…” He manages to say. “You are a shame to Hijikata-san.”

Looking him over, I smirk slightly at seeing where he’s injured. Strangely I am relieved I have not killed this man perhaps if I did the ghost of the Fukuchou would truly curse me.

“You’re not dying…” I tell him as I drag him low back to where our dugout is.

“Kill me now! Let me die an honorable death.”

I shove him against the earth and wrapped his leg tightly.

“There is no honor in dying.” I tell him “At least not until you get what you want in this era.”

“The Meiji is a doomed government.” He retaliates back and I can see the hate in his eyes, “They have squandered Japan’s resources and exploited it’s people. There is no livelihood even if we tilled the land as farmers.”

“And you are bushi…” I continue for him and look across the field. The cannon continues their fire while arrows fly through the air.

Saigo Takamori is a fool to lead all these men to a glorified but jaded death. They are dropping like flies…

“Yes… and I always will be.” I hear his voice in pain but sure.

I look down, “Then prove it. It is harder to live for your country than die for it.”

Taking my rifle once again, I take one last look at my estranged brother. I make no motion to take his katana from him. It will be his choice just like it was mine. The sky is filled with tears but I know what I fight for and for whom. It is easy to lose oneself in despair and sorrow, I still do just like earlier but as long as I am alive there is a chance to correct this era and vindicate why I am still alive. Although I can no longer see them, I will cling like the vine and be stubborn about it until that day comes when I can no longer fight and someone else will take my place. I rush through the barren fields where the others have started close range combats and I take out my katana. I may no longer be my old self, but the Saitou Hajime of the Miburo will live on in this Meiji official, he will from now on be known as Fujita Goro.

Life goes on…




Notes:
Yoshimura – mibugishiden
Battle – Seinan war
Second – someone to help a person commit seppuku

In Tolerance and Acceptance - A Journey that took almost a Lifetime
heh smoke!
fujita_goro
Hokkaido… The largest government detention facility is here, much worse than the one I was kept as a POW in Tokyo, but that’s not where I’m headed even if I am interested to check up on a few I’ve landed in jail. It’s almost winter and the cold winds are just typical of this place, so I pull on my collar to shield my neck. I could’ve of course sent word in advance to Nagakura. For sure he would be meeting me here with a ride, but I chose to walk the trail path to the middle of town. I did not have a chance to fifteen years ago… I am curious as to how Hijikata and Enamoto fared here. Walking these streets is like being thrown into uncharted territory. It is unlike Kyoto where the places and people seem to be stuck in time and unlike Tokyo where everything changes in such a horrid pace that one cannot afford to slow down. Here is neither of the two… It is part of Japan and yet it is not. The people are wary of strangers as I’ve noticed that passing a few on the street their eyes avert from mine and yet I feel them staring at my back. Normally I would think that rude, but simply I do not know this place to judge it’s people in such a manner.

All I do know is that the Fukuchou died here while fighting at Goryokaku trying to establish what he called the Republic of Ezo, or so I’ve read from the annals in the Department of Internal Affairs. A grand dream, just as grand as Okubo-san’s, but I still think it –is- a dream, an ideal that might be too far out of reach. Suddenly a gust of wind pierces through my coat and I realize that I cannot tarry these streets too long, my fingers are already cramping from the cold. Seeing a shed by the road, I walk up to it to shelter myself momentarily against the cold howling.

Reaching into my pocket, I pull out a cigarette and place it gingerly upon my lips. I think perhaps this will stay with me until the day I die. I’ve heard rumors that it could possibly kill me, but I’d rather die out of my own doing than in anyone elses hand. I simply –refuse- to die not on my own terms. Smirking I inhale the sensual scent and reminisce about the past fifteen years. There were many times that I berated myself for not being perfect, for not being good enough but thank providence that my wits always wins in the end. That to lie in stillness, to give up is something that I have not done, even if I did consider it many times. Perhaps if ever just like that Chinese philosopher said once…

"If I feel in my heart that I am wrong, I must stand in fear even though my opponent is the least formidable of men. But if my own heart tells me I am right, I shall go forward even against thousands and tens of thousand. "

I never was a very well learned man, in philosophy and what they call science, my knowledge of these things are mediocre at best and my sword is all I stand for… I watch as a rotten leaf fall from a momiji tree… Dragging on my cigarette I continue my walk to the northern part of town. Hokkaido is Japan after all, I mutter to myself and settle my hand on the saya of my nippontou. That is all I need, everything else will come second even if it is –my- life or I would’ve desecrated all my comrades who helped me to live into this era.

Nagakura will be surprised of course. I wonder if he thinks I am dead, just like I thought he was? I chuckle as I lengthen my stride. After a few minutes of traveling down the dirt road, I notice a small hut to the corner bounded by a low wooden fence. There are children running amok outside in the cold weather and I grin even wider. Children… will always be children. Who would’ve thought I’d be very fond of them? Perhaps even see why Souji was so eager to play with them… But Souji is in heart like a child. A chuckle once again escapes my lips as I finally realized that my friend –was- a child and if I was fond of him… Then it all makes sense…

“Kodomo! Is this the house of Nagakura Shinpachi?” I shout just enough for them to pay attention. A child possibly no more than ten comes running in a rush to open the gates. I’m surprised to say the least.

“Kodomo… Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to let complete strangers in so –easily- in your yard?” The boy doesn’t pay attention and goes back to playing with the other children and I sigh. Children now a days are hard to understand.

“If I was still in the mainland, I would’ve taught them that first thing.” Came a low but solid voice and I turn my head to the side and grinned.

“Old man… It’s time to go back.” I tell him. He’s older than I am by five years and I know how that irked the hell out of him.

“Who the )(*&)&^%(^& are you calling an old man?” He takes one of his sandals and throws it right at me but I evade and catch the damn thing.

“Watch the language OLD MAN… It’s not a good example for the children.” I chuckle and settle beside him, handing him the sandal and looking back where the children played.

“Oh those aren’t my kids…” He laughs and I just look back with an aporetic look on my face. “Their the neighbors… My daughter is expecting a child though, she lives just a street down.”

“So why do you let them ransack your yard and let strangers in?” I shake my head.

He shrugs, “We like the noise… And my wife loves children.” He laughs as he puts on the sandals once again, “To be perfectly honest, I’d rather just go and lay in the house and drink tea.”

“That’s quite boring old man.” I chuckle.

“Maybe you’re right. I AM OLD… But if I am, you are too.”

“Urusei…” I scowl. “I AM NOT OLD.”

“Well we could spend all day arguing about it, but what brings you here?” Finally his face turned a somber expression. I know for a fact what’s it’s like upon seeing old faces… It is almost akin to seeing your old self in other people… And with that comes the ghosts as well.

“I was thinking…” Looking up the grey sky, I take a breath. “It’s probably time we visit them.”

“Can’t do it alone?” He grins and I know he is teasing of course.

“I could…” I slam my fist down on the engawa, “But by all that is right and good, I promised to bring as much of us there as possible.” I challenge him with serious look, one that expressed the seriousness of the issue.

His eyes lit up a bit brighter than earlier, almost eager I would venture to guess. “Oh really? Did you find others then?”

Slowly, I shake my head. “I’ve heard rumors that Nakajima was alive but my informant disappeared… And I can no longer wait.”

As if in agreement he nods his head, “Nor can I. We’ll leave tomorrow.” He looks me over and as if to get back at my jeering at him earlier, “Those gloves, they're hard to keep clean when you smoke like a fiend…”

I laugh at this. He doesn’t know I smoke but of course the stains are there and perhaps I reek of it too. “OLD MAN… I’d rather reek of tobacco than reek of old age.” With that I stood up and followed him into his house where his wife was waiting. To live again in truth… The world was not as bleak nor forlorn as I once thought it to be. It is time we enact some form of monument for old friends.



Notes:
Nagakura was born 1839 around November which is why Saitou loves to joke about the OLD MAN. I've always wondered how the two met. I know for certain that they enacted a monument/shrine for those comrades who died. Don't know specifically when it was or how it came about. LOL.
Using this journal to put in my thoughts about Saitou Hajime about what I know in history and what could’ve happened. Nothing here is related to anything else, just me practicing voices and a fic I’m working on.

OOC: FS/FT RK Doujins
charging angry blue
fujita_goro
A completely OOC post. Heh! Got some doujins that I'd like to trade/sell so I can get more Saitou ones... I'm new to this scanning business so forgive the weird scans, they do not do the real DJs any justice since there's some pixelation because I scanned on too high a setting (per safetygirl). *shrugs* Oh well.

CLICK HERE FOR RK DOUJINSHI

Still feeling under the weather and a lot of things going on. I hope people are doing well... Now I must go and take my ninth nyquil of the day...

The women of Aizu and a few ties here and there
heh smoke!
fujita_goro
"Took you long enough!" I shouted at the woman behind Nakano-san as she alighted from the horse. We had been waiting for days for reinforcements to arrive in the frontlines near Aizu-Bange. Most of the men were either gutted, bombed or shot to death and to hang on tenaciously gave each man standing beside myself a ghastly look.

"Shut up! We had to regroup at Kurokawa-jo and the women needed more naginatas (halberds) and katanas!"

"Bah! Excuses excuses!" I threw her a rifle and motion her to a dugout where most of the men were at, to avoid the cannons and bullets that zipped right past us. I watched her as she situated herself by the stinking men and the nauseating corpse just slightly to her left before deciding to place myself between Yaeko and -the- corpse.

"Saitou-san we'll take to the walls behind the right and the others to the left of the trees, then we'll attack from there."

I nodded respectfully to Nakano-san, having heard of her reputation as a very brave woman who organized the Roushi-gun. I raised my hand to the captain to indicate that it would be a good idea. The enemy was head-on and we were at a stale-mate on who would move first. Of course the Meiji imperial army could just stay where they are and shoot at us from this distance, and yes they were definitely doing so. But it would be good to have a three point attack just in case they decide to advance. If not then we would have no choice but to charge in a few days, depending on our casualties. It would not be the best choice being severely outnumbered but that would be inevitable in the next few days.

I looked at my rifle and the katana to my side. The whistle of the artillery before it concludes with a loud bang, is now nothing more than the sound of an annoying chicada.

"How are things at the castle?" I turn and ask Yaeko, noting something quite different with her. I wonder if the lost of the Nagaoka castle has dimmed her spirit? No... There is no lost look and yet there is something definitely different.

"Most of the townsfolk have taken to arms. Yamakawa-san and Namuzawa-san, has organized a few men to fight and the others at the Itto-ryu dojo has started to train those who do not know how to fight. Yamakawa-san is really quite a bright man, not that -you- know him... He's been smuggling samurais into Aizu to help beef up reinforcements!"

She smiled slightly and I give her an approving look, grinning slightly at the mention of Yamakawa Hiroshi, he has been a student of my father a long time ago when we used to visit here in Aizu. It even came to the point that he would visit the Edo dojo just to spar with him. The last time I spoke with him though was at my Genpuku many years ago. Time seemed to have just flown by for all of us. Connections in Aizu has always been one of it's strengths, perhaps that is why I am seeing a rather bizzare event where every townsfolk has taken arms. In one way or another they are all connected.

"I guess it wouldn't surprise you the crass man that you are, that the women are forming another brigade like ours." She finally finished with a 'huff' in her voice.

"Of course it's your home. You better fight for it." I replied back indifferently to hide the pleasantness that seemed to be overwhelming my senses at the moment.

"Feh! and why are you fighting here, aren't you from Edo? You could go back there and get a reprieve and change your name -again-"

I look back at her incredulously and frowned. "I am now and always will be Saitou Hajime, Yaeko-san. And I have decided this is now my home. It's not much different I practically grew up here and those men in the Itto-ryu dojo are practically -my- brothers as are the Shinsengumi who fought for Kyoto and now fighting for Aizu -elsewhere-.

"I thought Hijikata was with Enamoto-san in Hokkaido?" She shot me a puzzled look.

Another cannon ball zipped pass us landing just a few feet away shattering a nearby tree. i look towards it then back to yaeko.

"Those ahous! Wait till they get just a tad closer and I will gut them like I did at tenma-ya.' I cursed.

"Again why the hell is Hijikata not here?!" She pulled on my ear.

"The same reason as with the Kyokuchou Yaeko-san."

"He's dead?"

I shake my head in annoyance.

"He left because just like the Kyokuchou, he has other things to do like stop this war, or get us away from it! And if you -must- know he is indeed in Hokkaido with Enamoto fighting."

"And he has left you here as a token boy." She chuckled bitterly. I turned to her, grabbing her wrist and pinned her to the ground. While the others watched us stupefied.

"Saitou-san don't fight between yourselves!" They shouted back at us.

"Shut up ahou! This woman needs a good beating!" I glared at them as they started to crawl to get to us.

She spat at my face and i wiped it off.

"Admit it! The Shinsengumi left us, leaving us with a few of their inept men, just like -you- to be a token boy, so that Matsudaira himself will not be angered."

My fist curled up into a ball and readied myself to strike. She spat at my face again. Damn it! Fully intent to strike her face, I burrowed my hand as she turned her cheek. A woman... She is a woman... Slightly, just ever so slightly I shifted my wrist just enough to miss and let my fist land towards the dirt beside her cheek.

"Do not insult the Daimyo nor the -Shisengumi- again, you have no right to judge us."

"Feh! I have every right to be judgmental! You have not seen your own townsfolk, women and children gut their own stomach because they cannot fight! Because they thought that with them being alive, the provisions for who fought would be depleted! If -you- and the Shogunate were able to keep things together in Kyoto then there would be no reason for the Aizu-han to suffer! There would be no need to fight a losing war! '

Shoving her back towards the dirt, I grip my katana and leaned across from her. The men and women who had tried to get to us earlier, fell back in silence wide eyed. I myself, looked back at them. How many of these people thought this way about our work? What would Kondou-san and Hijikata-san say to these people? Even i had no answers...

Letting go of my katana, I chose to pick up the rifle. If I'm going to fight... I might as well win... and although it is not my weapon of choice, winning is essential at this point, to -clear- our name again. There's no hope nor opportunity to clean it in Kyoto but maybe here and I could finally vindicate myself for letting the Kyokuchou die. I cannot give my life story to these people on why Aizu is important to myself. I do not have the time nor the capacity and if it means I put my pride aside for -now-, then so be it.

I grinned right at her, the most fakest grin I could muster.

"You look different." I said with a smug look on my face.

"Feh. I always thought the shinsengumi were lasivcious.'

I smirked even wider this time. There is no use letting this woman get to me. "The hair?"

"Yes I had someone cut it for me."

"I thought Aizu women valued their hair and would never cut it like a man does."

"It's a statement you idiot!"

I shrugged. Of course I -knew- that, even Okita shaved his head once for a statement. It was the women who never cut their hair, they only held it back in different sorts or whatever they do to it.

"Who cut it?"

"A good friend."

I roll my eyes at her. "Do you have to make everything -difficult-?"

"With you yes... But if you -must- know! Her name was Takagi Tokio."

I quirked up my eyebrow, Takagi? I have heard of a certain Takagi who was a direct retainer of the Daimyo. Rumors though was that he was an obstinate man. I could learn a bit more about yaeko and figure out how to push this woman's buttons if i find more about her -later-. "Where is she?"

"Back at the castle."

"Interesting..." I could not picture Yaeko being acquainted with a woman who do not share her 'constitution'. Even the women in the roushi-gun were all similar in certain ways. "If this Tokio did not come here to fight, why did you give her the honor of cutting your hair?" I ruffle the hair on top of her head. "And what the hell is she doing hiding in the castle?"

"Oh you really are an idiot!' She fumed and hit me on the chest.

Another loud crash is heard towards my right, I take a quick look and see that it had landed too close and covered one man with dirt. Is he still alive? i look past yaeko and see a few women dig him out.

"So?"

"Not everyone is the same you baka! Ideals shared are different, and there are those who can fight and those who can't. Just like you can't have everyone be followers nor leaders. Although i don't think of her in the same manner. She's more reserved and that's just the way it is, although i see her spirit sometimes... in other things."

"Like?"

"Why should i tell you? Can't you at least focus for once?" She motioned at the corpse lying beside me and rolled her eyes.

I grinned wickedly at her at how much prejudice she had towards -my- kind.

"Answer the question Yaeko."

"Again, we're just different and things like this now might not be what is for her. However there are things I think that will suit her in the future, when it is more peaceful and -that- is why I am here, to give the people of aizu a chance for that change."

"Sou ka."

There are many people whom i have met, even in times when all we could do is try to avoid being killed. There are times when you see through someone who hates you and they see through you as well, although in this case it is more of the former than the latter. Yaeko is a stubborn woman otherwise she won't be commissioned in the Aizu Women's brigade but I have always admired stubborness and tenacity, if she had been more of a lady i would actually go after her or maybe perhaps if she wasn't such a strong woman... Perhaps i am more conventional in that way, I prefer to be the man who is needed at times. Of course I would never tie myself up with a woman who is clingy enough to hamper my freedom. That would be a disaster i suppose. But the only thing I can truly say for sure is that I will never be with someone who did not understand nor supported what we had fought for in the Shinsengumi and did not accept what I have done and intend to do. To that effect these women here, it is in them that I find things to admire and respect, as women. In peaceful times, perhaps my views will change and what Yaeko says about this person will make sense. But if this Tokio is a good friend of Yaeko and she is not here fighting, that is interesting indeed. For now, these thoughts must be pushed to the side. The constant whistling and cracks of artillery are nothing more than a reminder to that fact.

"Tell Nakano-san that she should wear a breast plate and you should too. That change that you speak of, make sure you don't get killed before you see it.' I tell her as she struck me again on the chest with her bare fist.

(OOC: Mostly a historical account. Of course not the conversation.. But Saitou did fight with Yaeko in the front lines and there was indeed a Roushigun (Aizu women samurai - also known as joshitai?). Note that Tokio and Saitou did not really meet in the Battle of Aizu at least in this version, they probably did in history just in passing... This version of the wolf disappeared after Aizu surrendered to the Meiji and went to Hokkaido and got captured and put in a refugee settlement in Aomori, it's a deviation from history [sorry i'm just this way, I have no historical discipline!]. All the people mentioned were historical figures etc. etc. but perhaps not the circumstace surrounding his father/Hiroshi and Yaeko's anger towards the Shinsengumi. A good source of reading for the Aizu war would be: The Aizu War: A Testament of Shiba Goro)

Hanami
heh smoke!
fujita_goro
After I've realized the truth between Yaso and I, that circumstances change and sometimes there is nothing that can be done about it. It is the same I think as losing a war and yet, there is an end... A sort of completion to start something new. As I saw her walk towards the house, back to her husband with her child, somehow I knew it will be a new beginning for myself. A clean slate... Yes there is always the possibility of chaos, the possibility of war, the possibility of -not- finding anything. And yes... There is sorrow and hurt that I feel quite deeply towards this new era, where those who I deem important are no longer. And definitely there is hate towards those whom I considered my enemies. Those who still walks the earth and populate it like postules consumed in gangrene.

But who am I? What to do? What now? But most importantly do I care?

These thoughts consumed me that day. There are things left unfinished. Old fights. Old hopes. Old feelings. The grand idea of being a samurai and being of service to Japan has passed. The need for people like us who follow the code of bushidou -is- the past.

Everything is naught.

My time with the Shinsengumi is done. My fight for Aizu and Aomori is done. So what do I live for? Sitting on a stone bench I look up to the sky... My vision hindered by the branches and flowers of the Sakura tree. Pink and soft, it is swaying with the wind. I wince as the sunlight escapes from one of it's leaves.

There was once a man who told me of the Sakura when I was young. That it's beauty is unsurpassed and yet it is fleeting. Life is just like that -fleeting-. My time here is fleeting and I wonder why Kami has not snuffed out my worthless life. I find myself smirking... Was it not only a few months ago I had decided to die? Am I a coward after all not being able to gut my stomach? Perhaps Harada was more of a man... He went through with it... He just did it incorrectly and failed to kill himself. That ahou! After all that trouble, he lived... Too bad he died in Ueno. Too bad...

Lazily I tilt my head again to avoid the sunlight. Hiding from it by taking cover under one of the pink flowers. Beauty. A man can appreciate beauty I think. After all how did most of us ended in Shimabara? The ungodliest of places to find true beauty, but I did find it there even if for only a moment. If only she had not killed herself. If she had -waited-, things might've turned out differently.

The wind picks up slightly and the petals fall and I watch one fall indifferently to the ground. How weak this stupid tree is! No wonder it's bloom only last for a few weeks... Idiotic! Moronic! A complete waste of space!

"It's too bad...", he says as I walk along with him trying to pay attention to our surroundings. "The cherry blossoms only bloom for a few weeks."

Keeping silent, I try not to sigh. Hopefully he will not launch himself once again into a melancholy monologue... I need to be spared and he is distracting me from my duties. Now why is it that he insisted to come here for the Hanami, I do not know. Much less, that he decided to come here secretly and picked me as his companion completely baffles me. I still have to patrol tonight.

"I had promised my wife and daughter to take them this year." He says absent-mindedly. I walk right behind him and try -not- to listen.

"We should get back to the compound soon." I tell him. Of course we are wasting our time here, who knows what the Ishin Shishi are up to? He walks on as if not hearing me. He's probably dreaming again. I should not have agreed to join him, but Hijikata would have my head if he finds out I let -this- man out -alone-.

"Do you know why the Samurai is fond of the cherry blossoms?" He asks again not turning.

I decide not to answer that one. Beauty is trivial... And I have always hated the mess the tree made after spring. Unexpectedly he starts to chuckle. I can only wonder why and give a low snort.

"Maa... Of course you know. It's the symbol of Nippon after all." He turns to me and smiled.

It's been a long time since I've seen him look quite cheerful. One would think after his verdict of death with Serizawa and the loss of Yamanami... I had thought he would've become morose. Does his conscience not bother him? No... Perhaps not, only a guilty conscience would bother a man. Either that or he is an oaf, which would mean I am too if I am -here- in Kyoto.

He turns and continues to walk ahead. I follow... Just like back then when we first met in Edo.

For a moment I think about my father and how he told me about the Sakura... A fleeting beauty unsurpassed. He never did tell me anything else. Perhaps, I should've paid more attention. I frown slightly and continue on.


Waking with a cold wind blowing on my face, I turn my head. The sky is now a hue of orange and gold. Talk about wasting time! Getting up immediately, I head back to my quarters feeling light. Soon I should visit their graves. That is, once I know what to do with myself.

OOC: Hmmm... Can't remember where Harada Sanosuke died, but I think it was the Ueno War... Hmmm someone correct me if this is wrong.

A Stranger or Not?
heh smoke!
fujita_goro
The letter arrived from Hiroaki at noon, the second day of June. I had just started to settle in with my job in the TMPD and nothing of significance had been assigned to me –yet-. So for the past few days I'd rush home in the afternoons for no reason in particular, aside perhaps from boredom. Tokio was expecting our first child but it wasn’t to a point yet that she could not do well on her own. Perhaps, I was just bored at the Precinct and just in case something –did- happen, I should be here at this temporary house.

I re-read the letter once again as I sat in front of the desk in our room. It looks like I shall have to go to Akashi… It is fortunate that today is my day off... How long since that time Hiroaki turned me away? Of course with the developments, there is no other choice but to pay my respects. I am surprised he knows where I am living now, how did he manage to keep up with myself through all the residence and name changes for more than 13 years? I should leave now and be back by the afternoon. Rising, I head to the kitchen where I find Tokio boiling some fish broth… Standing there for a moment, I consider whether to take her on this short trip. No… It will be uncomfortable for both her and I, so I just tell her I’m leaving and will be back soon.

The driver is slow so I content myself with watching Mt. Fuji at the background. Passing through the fields where some farm hands worked, I am reminded of two people who surpassed being a samurai… In a way, we are the same of course… To be truer than a blue blood samurai, to follow the code of Bushido… Those days seems archaic at best, but the principles can be applied then and now. I should not forget.

The carriage stops by two sets of long stone stairs. I have arrived quite a bit later than I had expected… As I walk the steps, it seems like the blood in my body rushed all to my head. It was here that I first killed a man… The son of a direct retainer to the Shogun. Foolishness indeed when I drew my sword against him, all because of pride… Perhaps I would’ve been lost that day had it not been for the Shinsengumi… Perhaps I would not be walking these streets had Kondou not found me that night escaping from my hunters.


I hear the Tamagawa river as I near the end of the stairs. A long river that snakes it way through most of Edo… One that connected Akashi to Tama and now to my temporary home at the heart of the Tokyo. I made a detour to watch it from a cliff. The large stone rock is still there… Perhaps when my child is born, I shall take him here to go fishing… or if a girl I shall take her to watch the turtles. Searching my pockets for the pack of cigarettes, I light it up and leaned on a nearby tree… It was here that I had felt free a long time ago. Such thoughts though are just memories and should be left at that to make way for the new. Under the shade I look across the horizon, the sky is a light blue so different from those days of the Bakumatsu when it was pitch black. Suddenly, I had this uncontrollable urge to laugh… Of course! Of course! It was black back then for most of the times I patrolled and spied were during the night and sleep came at day! Sometimes I think I am truly an idiot.

With a grin I leave the place and proceeded to my elder brother’s house, enjoying the tobacco until I was right in front of the gates. Putting it out under my boot, I proceed to knock loudly. Will he be happy to see me? Should I wipe this grin off my face at such a time like this?

“It’s you…” He says as he looked me over. Always were the discerning one…

“Hai.” I answer with a shrug and a grin.

“How have you been?”

“I think you know the answer to that already Nii-san.” I tilt my head to look at him.

How the hell did you find me?

“I’m glad you came ahou.”

“It’s not like I had a choice.” I grin back at him as I hear the familiar greeting.

“Come in and say goodbye to Katsu. Her body will be cremated tomorrow.”

“Of course.” I follow him inside… Although my disposition has improved greatly at our meeting, probably because of my preparations earlier… My sister has passed away without a word between us when I had left or rather thrown out. Perhaps we were never really close, but there are times when blood is thicker than water and as the realization came that I had spent so much time away from here, I cannot help but feel a tinge of guilt as I raise the senko and offer a prayer in front of the Butsudan. It is a little early, but I must return soon to Tokio.

The afternoon passed in silence between Hiroaki and I, interrupted only when I was introduced to Katsu’s husband, Toshiaki Soma and the four children, then finally to Hiroaki’s wife and daughter, Yuki. In these occasions, I am not predisposed to small talk… Really there was nothing I could talk to them about, being estranged has that effect I think, so I confined myself to sit in Seiza beside the altar. It is amazing what one can learn in so short a period of time, when one listens instead of blabbering about oneself. Apparently my brother in law is an assistant to the Tokugawa clan in Mito… And Hiroaki himself has done well enough to be employed in the Tax Bureau… His head has always been better with numbers rather than with a katana, perhaps that is why Chi chi had taken the time to drag me to his classes and learn swordsmanship. I had always thought that irked Hiroaki quite a bit… Perhaps that is why up to this day he calls me a moron… an idiot… an ahou. Instinctively, I reach for my cigarettes once again and flicked a match, these family gatherings are not to my liking just as usual.

“Ahou! Don’t smoke in here!” He exclaims and nudges my shoulder. “Go outside…”

“Tch..” Normally, if it had been anyone else I’d stay where I’m at just for spite. However, things have been going quite well this afternoon so I humor him and stand right outside the door. He follows and looks me over with a disapproving look on his face. Ah so it will start now… The nagging, the guilt trips and all the things that we were not able to settle when he had thrown me out.

“When did you start that nasty habit?” he asks.

I shrug and inhaled long and deep just to annoy him a bit more before finally replying, “None of your business.”

“Oh really? It must be stressful to work for the Tokyo Police.”

My eyes narrow at him wondering how the hell he could’ve known. There are no tell tale signs and I am not even dressed in my uniform. I could ask… But then he’ll probably hold it over my head and feel superior as usual.

“Did you finally settle down?”

Again I choose not to reply to that one. He chuckles. “I pity the poor soul who’ll make that mistake.”

Hiroaki is looking for a fight again. As usual, just like when we were younger… But there is a difference now, I am not as weak as he thought before. “Mind your own business…”

“It’s a pity… Only the dead can bring us together like this.” He looks up and sighs. I turn back for a moment to see Katsu once again just laying there.

“Perhaps…” The words came out quietly, but really what I wanted to say was something more cynical. Death also tears a family apart. Those words though do not come out of my mouth… They are nothing more than old memories and I now have a new life and child to look forward to. “I should leave.”

“Will you come for the funeral tomorrow?”

“Iie. I have work to do.”

He makes no motion to stop me as I head for the gates. As I closed them, all I could hear was some unintelligible remark with the usual ahou at the end. I shake my head and leave with a grin on my face, quite different from the last time I left when I was nineteen. Perhaps people do change, even someone as stubborn as Hiroaki.



OOC:
Senko – incense sticks
Butsudan – altar
Hiroaki – Saitou’s older brother (real), yes he did work for the Tax Bureau and had a daughter named Yuki
Katsu – Saitou’s older sister (real – although I’m going by memory and am not 100% sure if this is his sister’s name, but I think this is correct) – Her husband Toshiaki Soma and children are also real, although I can’t remember if four children is accurate.
Mito – a place (in this case) but was also one of the clans who were supportive of the Bakufu. Serizawa Kamo also came from this clan.
Akashi – place of origin for the Yamaguchi family (Saitou’s family) - place is still in Edo (now Tokyo)
And yes Saitou Hajime did kill someone outside the realms of Aku Soku Zan when he was nineteen before joining the Shinsengumi
And as usual blending fact with fiction. LOL

The Ties that Bind
heh smoke!
fujita_goro


Yamaguchi Yuusuke, my father from the Akashi-han was one of it's lowly foot soldiers but yet he was a retainer for the Shogun and I was more than just proud of him, I was in awe. He took me to the Aizu dojo in Edo when I was younger and then later on to occasionally visit in Aizu while he taught Itto Ryu among the students. It was there that he made some influential friends including the Daimyo himself. He had always been a strict man with regards to Kendo and practice. Most of his students admired him for it but one cannot be perfect and there were some who despised him. As a child perhaps I didn't catch that little fact when a few boys came up to me in the courtyard after practice.

"Your otou-san shouldn't be teaching here in Aizu nor back in Edo." He said. "He's not a real samurai you know."

Well that was enough, I grabbed him immediately and wrestled him to the dirt. I got a good punch in his stomach before a couple of boys started pounding at my back. Of course three to one isn't really that great of odds and I found myself the one getting beaten up. Until my cousin Sasaki Tadasaburou came out fended them away and dragged me inside.

"I'm not done yet!" I shout as I wrestled free from Sasaki.

"Oh yes you are Hajime." He half dragged me away and him being older and bigger, all I could do was throw a tantrum. "I'm not a coward and -honor- is important! Let go of me!"

"Urusei Hajime! You Baka!" Knocking me on the head he deposited me back to my father. "The others were picking on him again Sensei."

"Sou ka. Thank you Sasaki-kun. You may leave us." He left and now hurting I almost vomit at the thought I'm going to be creamed once again by my own father. "How many times do I have to tell you that if you lose your temper... You'll lose."

"But Chichi! They insist that you.. No we! Are NOT samurai!" I stomp a foot indignantly but he just narrowed his eyes at me.

"Who cares what they think?" He scowled.

"I do!" I shout back.

"Who cares what -you- think?" He shrugged.

"What?" I screamed.

"Kodomo... It was -my- decision to be part of the Akashi-han."

"Yes I know that! Our family has always been!"

"Where did you hear that?" He scowled right at me.

"We've always been!" I firmly root my place in front with my brows furrowed, stubborn and inflamed.

Of course we have right? I mean I grew up with him and he always identified himself with the Akashi-han.

"No... It was just -my- decision. I sold my share of the family business to your aunt, so I can buy the title. We were -never-, nor is our origins really of the samurai class Hajime."

Standing still, I consider his words for a long moment. I'm not really from a line of noble swordsmen? I'm just... So they were right? We are not samurai by heritage? And if we are samurai, we are the lowest and worst lot. My father... Is the lowliest of them, and he was even greedy enough to buy a title which can never really belong to him in the eyes of those who were of the pure samurai class?

"So... Next time you want to get hurt again. Make sure Sasaki is not around to save your ass."

I nod at him angrily and dismissed myself. Still shocked at the sudden lost of pride. Lately Chichi did not seem particularly happy. Our home was whole and with nothing lacking, so this has been a mystery to me for quite some time. But now that I've heard this, a sinking feeling tells me that he is neither content nor happy with him attaining this social class in such a manner. Perhaps it truly was his mistake. Little did I know that my father's mistake will soon be his demise... But a blessing in disguise for me as well.

(OOC: Blending history with fiction. The real part is that Yuusuke did buy the title. I would write more about what the Yamaguchi business were but my source tells me that it is not known or at least not yet translated, a good book would be Saitou Hajime no Subete, but no I did not buy it since I cannot read Japanese at all. Yuusuke abandoned his sister to take care of that business and left for Edo and Aizu to teach Kendo and buy stocks. As for Sasaki Tadasaburou he was the Kyokuchou of the Mimawarigumi and is rumored to be Saitou's cousin. I'll find out more probably but we'll see if there's actually a need to post here.)

Howling Wolves
heh smoke!
fujita_goro


To fight fire with fire. To cross blades and spill blood in the streets of Kyoto in order to serve the Shogun, to protect the Emperor and to ensure Japan’s future. That was the reason we found ourselves in Kyoto. With the general unrest of the people with the entry of the Gaijins, there were rampant assassinations and killing in the streets, chaos was the only name for it.

The various hans that warred, plotted and bickered amongst themselves were a constant headache for both the Military and Imperial branch of Japan. And the worst was when they had decided to slowly instigate the separation of the Shogun and the Emperor under the slogan “Sonno-joi”, a long and slow process that finally came to fruition when Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi left Edo and took Kyoto as the seat of the Bakufu to calm the unrest the Ishin Shishi has started. Of course it was just a plot to free Edo of the Bakufu to create an opportunity to take the Imperial house and influence it however they saw fit. Of course the various clans saw through this particularly, the Military Commissioner appointed to protect Kyoto who was no one else than Matsudaira Katamori himself of Aizu. Eventhough Aizu itself was amongst the largest han comparable to Choshu and Satsuma, between the masses and the other clans combined it was a difficult task to keep the Shogun and Kyoto safe, thus Matsudaira himself with the help of Kiyokawa Hachiro recruited samurai, ronins and farmer to form the Roshitai, to subdue the Ishin Shishi who were using masterless ronins, farmers and country samurai to cause unrest in Kyoto. Thus, the beginning for the Shinsengumi.

The Kyokuchou being a young man interested in politics, a young master of the Tennen Rishin Ryu, we followed him for his sincerity and charismatic leadership. Perhaps this zeal came about from his humble beginnings as a farmer's son and the discrimination that came along with it. But we saw it, his desire to become truer than a real samurai, to surpass it both in body and mind. We came to dance upon the bonfire which he started as nothing but a small flicker of flame that grew in a small dojo in Tama. Tenderly cared for until our fangs were sharp enough to roam the streets, tearing at those which threatened the stability that kept Japan by a thread.

What started out as a ploy on the part of the Pro-Imperial forces who took Kiyokawa under their wing back-fired. Those who signed up for the Roshitai soon found themselves tricked upon reaching Kyoto. That we were to turn back and be part of the new imperial army that was to be based in Edo. “What nonsense is this? The Shogun and the Emperor are one, the purpose that bound them are the same! To serve the Shogun is to serve the Emperor and to serve the Emperor is to serve Japan! And if it was the Shogun and the Bakufu itself who were led astray and must be cut off before gangrene settles, then shouldn’t the Emperor himself commit seppuku?” These very words I heard Kondou-san say as I carved a small figure on the engawa, watching Serizawa Kamo suggesting to Kondou to kill Kiyokawa… I would’ve done it myself but perhaps we will be dismissed and ordered to return to Edo soon enough.

Ah! But yes the deception and ministrations of those clans in the South and West, they tore the land apart and planted the seeds for a civil war. Yes we share the sentiment of –dislike- for foreigners, yes we share the same fear for our safety and colonialism, but no we do not condone insolence! That is the reason we stayed in Kyoto, unwelcome in the estate of the Yagis, reluctantly imposing upon them until we were strong enough to be of use. The humble beginnings in Tama had made us hardy people and the Kyokuchou’s patriotic desire guided us until we were able to suppress the unrest caused by the Choshu clan with the help of Aizu and Satsuma. Finally Aizu decided that we were more than just ronins and farmers, that we could be useful and supportive of the Bakufu. This was the time we were officially commissioned as the Police troop directly under the Military Commissioner of Kyoto, under the name Shinsengumi.

And yet one night as I pass by to return to the compound, I saw writings on the wall “Miburo”. That would’ve been fine, our headquarters were in Mibu, however narrowing my eyes that dark night, I see it is written in red… It meant nothing else but a derogatory term for the Shinsengumi. The streets were full of rumors and blood during that time. We were thought of as cold, heartless, brutal murderers. We were quick to practice Aku Soku Zan. We were thought of as wily and wild. The people took to the side when we patrolled the streets, while the rebels and traitors hid in the shadows. Cowards!

And yet the people did not know, that we were here for them… And that the blood spilt between us and the enemy… What really colored the streets were our own, the blood of our comrades who have died in ambush, those who have died fighting and those… who died by our own hands. Cruel indeed. They labeled us monsters, for they heard of rumors of the Kyokuchou and his immutable "unreasonable" decisions. They heard of the Oni Fukuchou and his many rules and the torture chamber that accompanied it. They heard of the Captains who did not tolerate excuses and kept their men in a tight leash… For they heard of the many subordinates who were asked to practice kishin and commit seppuku. It was our blood –not- theirs that painted Kyoto red! It was our lives that were sacrificed to restore some sort of order that they had obliterated for fear of change!

What they didn’t see was the kindness of Kondou-san to his men, sacrificing the life he knew in Tama as Kat-chan for the love for Nihon. They didn’t know the pragmatic designs and intelligence of Hijikata and his loyalty to the Shinsengumi. They didn’t hear of the loyalty and camaraderie between the Captains and the brotherhood shared between their men. They did not see the tears of blood we shed each time a member was lost to the hands of the enemy and the insanity and pain that lingered when we took the life of a brother to uphold the Hatto. They did not hear the wolves howling together at night, knowing what was to come and yet not turning back to flee. The fangs are grown and if it is to be cut then so be it! There is only one real truth and that is Makoto!

(OOC:
*Gaijin*-foreigner
*Han*-clans
*Matsudaira Katamori*-Daimyo of Aizu/Kyoto protector
*Kiyokawa Hachiro*-traitor who misled the roshitai and the daimyo
*Sonnoi joi*- Revere the Emperor! Expel the foreigners! -slogan used by the Ishins
*Roshitai*-group of masterless samurai and farmers that was to be recruited to helaap the Bakufu
*Oni-Fukuchou*-(lit trans) Demon vice-commander - demon though is not really descriptive nor bad. It means more like very passionate or very stubborn about something.
*Serizawa Kamo* – Kyokuchou of the Shinsengumi in it’s earlier stages. Assasinated by order of Kondou.
*Kat-chan*-real childhood name of Kondou Isami, before he was adopted his name was Katsugoro Miyagawa

Stealing for Shimabara
heh smoke!
fujita_goro


Shimabara the red light district... Slightly to the southwest from the center of Kyoto. It was one of the places where we were assigned to patrol. FAR from Nijo castle. Obviously it was a statement and a -glaring- one at that for the Shinsengumi. The Bakufu itself considered us as lowly ronin not fit to be in Kyoto and the Aizu han, considered us as a blister being supported by Matsudaira.

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(OOC: There's no umm lemon, but ummm please don't read if you don't like these things. Also my ummm apologies for using the word whore. I needed that. Umm sorry?

OOC2: Hatto rules of the Shinsengumi. Koto - I think that's the instrument you pluck. LOL! And as for Saitou stealing... Well it's not confirmed as to "why", the rumor was he stole for a woman in Shimabara but on top of this, it was more like a cover for himself while he was a spy. I cannot imagine under what sticky circumstance he found himself with Itou, so I just decided "A woman it is!" LOL. Forgive this sap once again. Onegai?

OOC3: LOL.. I'm mixing up names.. Sorry Sagara it's Harada.)

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