01 ♕ A Coat of Ice
The washed out red of my outfit helps me blend into the bustling crowds of Humans eager to complete their daily shopping without much of a hassle. The clamour makes my ears hurt, and the dust they are kicking up is stinging my eyes and making my vision blurry. There’s the chatter of the Humans, the bone-chilling sound of crunching and grinding stones beneath their feet, and the pathetic, mournful cacophony of distressed animals that are ready to be sold.
There’s a smell of bitter sickness in the air, and it catches my interest, pulling me from the opera of every day life. Whoever is sick, is too sick to be out in this mess, but they’re out any way. What would bring them out? The scent strengthens and I feel my eyes flare slightly as they catch sight of an ice blue material coat, and a small growl rumbles in my chest. It’s drowned in the crowd, but a pair of deep blue eyes look in my direction, apprehension clear in them.
As I meet them, I smile warmly and nod my head in recognition. It’s always common courtesy to be polite - even if those you are polite to do not deserve the kindness. The man nods in response and his eyes return to sweeping the crowds for any sign of danger. My smile vanishes and my eyes turn hard, anger bubbling just below the surface of my emotional shell.
“Shinsengumi bastards,” someone mutters from beside me, and several people grumble in agreement. I look over to the older men and tilt my head to the side as I listen. “Those bastards need to keep their noses out of our business.”
“What have they been doing here?” I dare to ask.
The other man’s eyes darken. “They’ve let loose their little pets and many have died in their wake. They’re not protecting anyone but themselves.”
“They did the same back in Edo.” I feel my eyes flare for a split second as images rush through my mind; red eyes glowing in pale faces surrounded by billowing white. “I lost my entire family to them - all except my brother.”
The men turn solemn and one claps me on the shoulder, a sign of comfort that I gladly accept. After a moment, I turn away from the group of men. They continue their conversation as I slowly make my way after the men in coats of ice. The crowd appears to be parting as I make my way through it, but I know that I am only making it to the edge of the Humans. Many crowd in the centre, but there are still stragglers and those who cannot afford anything but to admire the pieces for sale.
The vibrant colour of their uniforms causes them to stand out from within the washed out colours of the crowd, and that’s just what I need. Although, I’d be able to follow them by scent alone if it was required of me. Right now, it’s easier just to rely on sight - even if the bitter scent of sickness is blossoming in the air and clogging my nose. It’s making me feel sick just smelling it. Drowning in the sickness is a young man, and there is no way Humanly possible that he’d be able to recover from this. It is a common sickness, but it is deadly.
He is going to die painfully and without hope for respite. Chills, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite - he has it all to look forward to. That is, if it has not already begun. There’s also a high chance that he has already started coughing up blood. If that is occurring, there is only a small window in which he is able to be saved by a Devil. He’s only a few months before that window is closed, and he is going to be suffering greatly in those upcoming months.
“You poor Human,” I murmur, deftly maneuvering my way through the Humans. Pity rises within me and I feel my eyes soften their hard shell. “You don’t deserve this death - even if you and your creations did slaughter my family.”
Someone goes to a standstill directly in front of me and I have no time to stop. I connect with their solid frame and stumble backwards, tripping over and landing ungracefully on the rocky ground. The man I ran into turns around and stares down at me, his face twisted into a sneer and his eyes burning dangerously with anger. My eyes widen slightly in shock and I swallow slightly, trying to bury my rising anger at this man before me.
“You little brat,” the older man snarls, distaste dripping from his deep, droning voice. “How dare you barge yourself into me! Did your mother teach you no manners, young man?”
I bite back my harsh response.
“What? Nothing to say, brat? Not even an apology for the damage you caused?”
I grit my teeth. “I did nothing. You stopped abruptly and I had no time to stop myself.”
His eyes burn with anger and he grips my collar, dragging me to my feet and glaring deep into my eyes. “Why you insolent brat! How dare you speak to me in such a way! You truly know no manners, do you? You are nothing but a street rat, and yet you believe you have the right to say such lies!”
“I am neither a street rat nor a liar.”
The man raises his hand and, for the first time in years, I feel the sickening fear rise within me. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and turn my head to the side in an attempt to dodge the blow. I feel the air move, and I know it’s coming. Then, it just stops in mid air. The sound of skin meeting skin is all I need to hear. Someone stopped the blow - some fleeting Human just stopped it.
I slowly open my eyes to see the blue eyed man from before, and he’s not alone. A man with brilliant evergreen eyes is staring at the older man with almost unbridled rage, and his hand is resting on the hilt of his katana. Beside him is a younger male - not much younger than me by the looks of him - and his blue-green eyes are dark with distaste and annoyance. Standing on my other side are two more males - these two grinning like madmen. The shorter of the two has a green cloth wrapped in his reddish-brown hair and has his hands resting on his hips, a smirk on his face but annoyance dancing in his blue eyes. The final male has bright red hair and deep burgundy eyes that draw me in, and, in place of a sword, he is resting a spear over his shoulder and grinning at the perpetrator before him.
It is him that speaks, and I realise that he has a lisp. “Now, what do we have here?”
The older man before me bares his teeth in anger. “This little brat needs to learn some manners!”
“How so?” the man with the bandana asks almost cheekily, his grin widening. “What exactly did this young one do?”
“He barged right into me and said no apologies. He is a filthy street rat with no manners.”
I growl lowly in my throat and my eyes harden. “I told you! I am no street rat!”
“You shut your mouth, brat!”
The indigo haired man clears his throat, drawing my eyes. “Perhaps we should let this one explain what happened.”
The evergreen eyed man chuckles, gripping the older man’s other wrist and forcing him to release my collar. I drop back to the ground and almost crumple as my foot twists to the side, a small yelp leaving me as I start to descend. The man with the burgundy eyes instinctively wraps an arm around my waist to stop me from hitting the ground, and then his eyes widen in realization before turning harsh as they look at the man before us.
“You bastard,” he hisses, his tone sending chills down my spine. “You were about to hit a woman! You are a disgrace.”
The man’s eyes widen considerably as they move to me. “Y-You’re female?”
I snort in derision, glaring the older man. “What gave you the impression that I was male? The clothes? If that’s it, I suggest you take a good look at what you perceive a woman to look like.”
The man with the green cloth chuckles. “You heard the woman.”
I turn my gaze to the reddish-brown haired male and narrow my eyes. He meets my angered gaze and raises his hands in defence, obviously realising that he has just offended me. I pull away from the burgundy eyed male and cross my arms, scanning the group of Shinsengumi before me. None resemble those that slaughtered my family, but there is a hint of familiarity wafting from the group. I remember seeing them somewhere, but I do not recall when or where it was.
I meet the evergreen eyes of the kaga kiyomitsu katana wielding male and watch as a devious grin decorates his pale face. The bitter scent of sickness is all that I can smell right now, and it’s coming directly from him. A small rag is hanging out from his sword belt, and there is a scent of blood lingering on it. It’s still fresh, which means it must have only been used in the past half an hour. My eyes drift back up to his face and I notice that his eyes have darkened considerably. His fist is clenched tightly and anger is seeping out of his pores.
The burgundy eyed man beside me gently shakes me. “Are you still with us, miss?”
I look over at him and see his worried expression. “What is it that you want from me? Or am I allowed to go home now? My brother will be beginning to worry.”
“I’m afraid we cannot let you go home,” the indigo haired man states emotionlessly.
“Why is that?”
“We have reason to believe you wish us harm. You have been following us all afternoon.”
A laugh breaks free from my lips and I quickly cover my mouth as everyone stares at me. “I do apologise if it seemed that way. You see, my home is in the same direction you have been heading.”
The young man with blue-green eyes beside the indigo haired man frowns lightly. “There are no houses out the way we were going. It is nothing but forest.”
“My brother and I live in a small house in the forest. We are not very...social people, if you will. We prefer to be away from others. We’ve had many a bad experience with other people.”
The indigo haired man narrows his eyes in suspicion. “Such as?”
I bristle at the threatening undercurrent in his voice. “Such as delicate matters that I will not be disclosing to complete and utter strangers, thank you, sir.”
He visibly flinches at my verbal attack, and I watch as the two beside him shift uncomfortably. The older man from before quietly walks away, the reddish-brown haired man’s eyes watching him carefully until he is gone from the street. I cross my arms over my chest and stare down the evergreen eyed man, making him look away from my intense gaze with a flushed face.
I stand with them for a moment more before letting out a sigh and walking away, fixing my messy hair up from when I fell. Footsteps sound behind me and I quickly pull my short sword from its scabbard. I spin on the spot and hold the blade barely an inch from the man’s throat. He stares down at me with widened eyes before smiling softly, making me lower my blade slightly. His hands slowly raise in surrender and I sheath my short sword before staring at him with annoyance.
“What is it you want?”
The red haired man scratches the back of his neck. “My name’s Sanosuke Harada.”
My eyes soften slightly, but I stay on my guard. “Chizuru Yukimura. I’ll ask again, what is it you want?”
“I want to apologise for Hajime pushing you. He is not very subtle.”
“It’s alright. He’s not the first to ask.”
“I could tell by how you reacted when he asked.” Harada’s expression turns hesitant as he opens his mouth before closing it again. “I am sorry for your loss.”
I clench my jaw. “Do not ever say that again. Understood, Sanosuke Harada? I do not want neither your sympathy or pity.”
“Chizuru-chan, I apologise. I did not mean to offend you.”
His burgundy eyes are honest, and there is nothing hiding within them. His features are soft, yet sharp, and hold a beauty that I have never seen before on a Human man. All Devils have beauty, but not all Humans. They are usually harsh and unforgiving with no sense of the finer things in life. This Human is different, in more ways than one.
“You want something else,” I state, my voice soft. “What is it, Sanosuke-sama?”
Harada’s expression turns surprised.
“It’s alright. What is it?”
“I just don’t believe it is right for a woman to be walking alone at this time of day. If something were to happen, I would feel as though I was responsible for allowing you to walk away.”
“What a strange Human,” Kaoru sighs, making me look over my shoulder at him. He is dressed as though he is female, and it does suit him. His features are finer than mine, but not by much. “Tell me, Sanosuke Harada, what is it you truly want with my sister?”