Chapter 12: Five is A Crowd
Gintoki and Tsukuyo were walking down the streets of Kabuki District, looking
for information. But they did not manage to get anything valuable enough to
help them. As they kept walking to another destination, a police car suddenly
stopped beside them. The window rolled down, and the couple saw Hijikata’s face
revealed from the opening window with Yamazaki beside him as the driver.
“What do you want, now?” asked Gintoki having a bad feeling about the atmosphere.
Hijikata simply unlocked the back door as he simply said, “Just get in. I’ll explain what’s going on.”
Gintoki and Tsukuyo reluctantly got into the vehicle then the car drove back to the Shinsengumi Headquarters. As soon as the car stopped in front of the headquarter’s gate, the car’s door opened and the couple suddenly jumped out from the vehicle and stormed their way through. After running through corridors and ignoring the other Shinsengumi members who were looking at them, they arrived at the medical compound. Upon their arrival, Gintoki and Tsukuyo saw Kondou, Sougo, Shinpachi, Otae and Kyuubei in front of the room.
Sougo was standing beside the room with his back pressing against the wall behind him, his arms were crossed each other, and his eyes were staring at the floor. Otae, Kyuubei and Shinpachi were standing together right at the front of the room’s entrance, while Kondou was standing at the opposite side of Sougo’s position. The older tanned man noticed the incoming couple first, then followed by Kyuubei and Shimura siblings.
“Oh, there they are. Yorozuya!” said Kondou calling out at them.
“Gin-san! Tsukuyo-san! You’re here!” followed Shinpachi.
“How’s Kagura?” asked the silver-haired man with his eyes serious.
According to Hijikata, Shinpachi, who was on his way home after meeting Kirara, was the first one who found Kagura lying unconscious with battered-up Sadaharu beside her, whining while trying to wake her up. Then Sougo who was continuing his patrol heard ruckuss from afar, as he walked towards the source of the noise, he found several men lying knocked-out and badly beaten-up on the ground, and as he moved ahead the captain found Shinpachi, who was holding Kagura in his arms. Then Sougo called ambulance together with several of his subordinates to the scene. Otae got a call from Shinpachi about what happened, quickly came together with Kyuubei who was actually doing her usual visit to Shimura’s dojo.
“Her wounds have started to heal, Sadaharu only suffered minor injuries, but…” said Otae but she stopped. Her eyes were showing worry.
“She is depressed on what happened. You should see her, Gintoki…” said Kyuubei continuing Otae’s explanation.
As Gintoki and Tsukuyo went inside the room where Kagura was being treated, they saw the yato girl was sitting on her futon, wearing a white outfit for medical patients, hugging her legs and as she buried her face to her laps, sobbings were heard from the shaking yato girl. Kagura noticed someone was inside the room, she peeked over to see Gintoki and Tsukuyo were standing in beside her, then Kagura went back burying her face.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” said Kagura between her sobs.
“Kagura…” said Tsukuyo worried, Gintoki only remained silent as he glanced over Kagura’s arms and legs that were covered in bruises and scars that haven’t fully healed yet.
“I… I was with her… But I couldn’t protect her….. I supposed to be stronger than those guys… But I still let them take Kyouko-chan away… I’m so weak… I’m so sorry, Gin-chan… Tsukki…” said Kagura continuing to apologise between her sobs.
The couple simply walked over to approach the injured Kagura, both of them sat near her and Gintoki reached out his hand. Kagura who was still crying and burying her face felt something tender and warm touching her head. When she looked up, she saw Gintoki was rubbing her head gently with Tsukuyo sitting beside him, both of the adults had warm smiles on their faces.
“It’s alright, Kagura… You’re okay there, aren’t ‘cha?” asked Tsukuyo with concern in her voice.
“Tsukki….” Said Kagura with tears started to swell up on her blue eyes.
“We’ll find her. It’s a promise”, said Gintoki continuing patting Kagura’s red-vermillion hair gently.
Seeing her surrogate father's face and hearing what he said, Kagura could not hold her tears anymore. As her tears started streaming down to her cheeks, Kagura cried her eyes out, hugging the silver samurai and burying her face in Gintoki’s chest. Gintoki simply took Kagura in his arms, Tsukuyo also enveloped the two Yorozuya with her arms, one of her hand joined together with Gintoki’s hand on Kagura’s back.
“Gin-chan… Gin-chan…!” said Kagura in her cries.
Gintoki and Tsukuyo did not say anything but kept smiling as they kept comforting Kagura in their arms. The rest who were watching from outside the room put on a relieve smile while watching the touching moment, except Sougo who kept his stoic face. When Kondou glanced over the sandy-haired man, he noticed that the teen’s eyes were glittering in anger as Sougo was looking at the crying Kagura. As if reading what was inside the 1st division captain’s mind, the chief crept up a smile and asked him.
“What is it, Sougo?”
Sougo suddenly jolted a bit at the sudden question from his superior. “Nothing”, was all he said in response.
“It’s about those girls, isn’t it?” asked Kondou again.
Sougo sighed a bit before he answered again. “I don’t really care about that little girl, but I’m just intrigued about bastards who were able to put that china beast into that state…”
Kondou and Shinpachi raised their eyebrows wondering at Sougo’s respond, and Sougo continued, “Because the only one who is allowed to hurt her is me, and me alone…” said the sadist captain looked back at Kagura, with anger was shown up on his eyes again.
Shinpachi only sighed as Kondou and Kyuubei only shook their heads and smiled at Sougo’s attitude, even Otae could not help but chuckled a bit. Gintoki and Tsukuyo came out of the room after Kagura had calmed down and went back to sleep.
“Thanks for the help, Okita-kun…” said Gintoki to Sougo.
Sougo only raised his eye-brow because it was quite unusual for Gintoki to address him properly, although it was only his surname. “I was just around the crime scene”, replied Sougo plainly.
As the vice-chief showed up, everybody turned their eyes on Hijikata who was smoking.
“Did you find anything?” asked Gintoki to the newcomer.
“We have taken those knocked-out guys into custody, but they’re just new recruits who even never been shown the main base. So we couldn’t extract anything useful from them”, replied Hijikata blowing out a smoke.
“Are you sure?” asked Tsukuyo this time.
“Sougo and Shimaru interrogated them personally, so I’m sure. Anyway, I’ve sent out Yamazaki and some more others to look for more leads”, replied Hijikata again.
“I’ll also send out my clansmen to help as well” said Kyuubei offering her help before she moved out to play her part.
Gintoki only remained silent at Hijikata’s answers with his bangs covering his eyes. He simply left the group, wanting sometime alone. Tsukuyo who noticed something about Gintoki decided to go after him. Kondou and Hijikata left together towards different direction to continue the investigation, Shimura siblings and Kyuubei decided to accompany Kagura a little bit longer, and Sougo remained on his spot, watching Kagura over his shoulder.
After walking for few minutes, Gintoki and Tsukuyo were alone in the hallway. As Tsukuyo was watching Gintoki from behind, she saw his fist was hardened then she saw the man slammed the wall beside him.
“It’s all my fault…” muttered Gintoki with his teeth clenched, his hand was slightly shaking.
“Gintoki…” Tsukuyo put on a worried expression.
“I should’ve been with them”, continued Gintoki blaming himself.
Without saying anything, Tsukuyo slowly wrapped her arms around Gintoki’s body from behind, circling her arms around his waist as her head was leaning on his back. Gintoki did not see that coming at all, as he only watched in confusion at the woman’s behaviour.
A tear escaped Tsukuyo’s eyes and ran on her cheek. “I’m to blame too… I shouldda come to visit her sooner…”
“But you have your own reasons... Instead of just waiting for you back there and look after them, I decided to selfishly leaving them alone…” replied Gintoki.
The two remained silent for a while with the man was still blaming himself. Seeing Gintoki in such state, Tsukuyo looked down for a bit before she spoke up. “Gintoki, you told me that I shouldn’t bear everythin’ alone, that I should share my problems with you guys… So don’t you put everything on yerself alone now… Try to share them with me, with us. We’re family, right?” continued Tsukuyo tightening her hug, another tear escaped her eyes.
Hearing Tsukuyo’s voice and words had touched him a bit. As Gintoki crept up his hand on Tsukuyo’s hand plastered on his belly, he held her hand tightly as he smiled at the woman.
“Thanks”, said Gintoki while he spun his body around to face Tsukuyo.
Now his body was facing her, Gintoki slowly reached out to Tsukuyo’s face with his right hand and he wiped her remaining tears away. As the woman felt his warm hand caressing her cheek, she held the hand on her face with her left hand and their free hands holding on each other. Gintoki pulled her face slowly towards his, as they slowly closed their eyes as their faces got closer to each other, until their lips met. Gintoki’s left hand that was holding Tsukuyo’s right also started to slowly made his way to the woman’s back, as well as Tsukuyo’s right hand reached Gintoki’s back. The kiss was simple, not too deep, as they were feeling each other’s scent, taste, everything, while they kept their position for few seconds. When their lips finally parted, the couple joined their foreheads together, this time feeling each other’s warmth.
“We’ll definitely get Kyouko back together with us”, said Gintoki with his eyes remained closed.
“Yeah”, replied Tsukuyo with her eyes slightly open, she smiled upon hearing what he said.
After that moment had ended, Gintoki let go of the woman in his embrace then he proceeded to go out of the headquarters.
“Where’re ya goin’?” asked Tsukuyo following him.
“I’m gonna meet someone who might know something about this”, replied Gintoki as he kept walking towards the gate.
“You stay here with Kagura and the others, in case something came up”, said Gintoki stopping Tsukuyo on her tracks.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine”, said Gintoki at the woman who has a worried look on her face.
He gave the woman a reasuring smile and he walked away. After Tsukuyo stared at Gintoki’s figure that kept getting further away from her sight, she walked back inside The Shinsengumi’s compound.
At a certain ramen shop called ‘Hokuto Shinken’, a woman with blonde hair tied up in ponytail was serving a bowl of soba to a man with long black hair. The entrance door slid open when the customer was eating his meal, revealing another man with silver hair, clad in black and white outfit. The owner, Ikumatsu who noticed another guest looked up to give him a welcome greeting as she recognised the guest’s face. “Welcome… Oh, Gin-san. It’s been a while”, greeted Ikumatsu.
“’Sup.” Gintoki greeted back. “Sorry though, but I’m here just to see Zura”, said Gintoki as he immediately proceeded towards Katsura who turned his head to look at him while he was still eating.
“It’s not Zura, it’s Katsu-” said Katsura retorting but stopped abruptly when he saw the looks in Gintoki’s eyes. “What happened?” asked Katsura noticing Gintoki’s mood.
“I need your help to save my daughter”, replied Gintoki with serious face.
Katsura closed his eyes, letting out a small sigh. “Actually, I was about to see you. Elizabeth and my men have found something about the things I told you the other night before”, said Katsura motioning Gintoki to sit down beside him.
Ikumatsu who smelled something serious decided to move a bit far away, giving the two men some private space after placing a glass of water on the table, in front of Gintoki who took his seat.
“Tell me what you know”, asked Gintoki, not wasting anytime.
“We found out that not only those rogue kidnapers have various base as their branches through out Edo, but they transferred most of their victims to their main base. We haven’t located their branches, but we only need to find their main base of operation, and it is at…”
When Gintoki heard Katsura’s answer, his eyes grown wider, surprising and slightly not believing at the answer. After looking down and thinking for a while, Gintoki looked up at Katsura. “Zura, can I ask you a favour?”
“Name it. And it’s not Zura, it’s Katsura!”
Back to Shinsengumi headquarters, Tsukuyo was sitting on the Shinsengumi’s veranda facing the garden. She blew out a smoke from her kiseru for god knows how many times, but she still felt very worried and anxious. Thinking that she had waited for Gintoki long enough, she stood up to do things in her way.
Until suddenly she heard someone arrived at the garden in front of her. Tsukuyo recognised the figure who came out of nowhere, it was a woman around her own age, she was wearing a red-framed glasses and white ninja outfit with purple scarf and purple lavender hair. “Sarutobi…” Tsukuyo greeted at the female ninja.
Ayame remained silent as she walked towards Tsukuyo. Her eyes were covered by her bangs. When Ayame stopped in front of Tsukuyo, she stopped and shuddered a bit, and then she raised her face towards the blond woman. “Tsukki” said Ayame towards Tsukuyo.
But suddenly, Ayame let out some unexpected words. “Hmph, seeing you being totally clueless makes me feel sorry for you. I know what happened, so I came to give you a hand…”
Tsukuyo’s eyes widened a bit at Ayame’s cheeky lines, but she kept listening as the kunoichi with glasses continued her preaching. “I have investigated this recent kidnapping incident in request of Matsudaira-san, so I know where Kyouko-chan is. In fact, I’m planning to go to rescue her by my own so I can take Gin-san away from you! But…” said Ayame even started to sound annoying, but Tsukuyo noticed a sudden change in her tone. “I guess you are the one who should do the job”, said Ayame handing out a piece of paper. “You are her mother, after all…” said Ayame with her eyes looking down, covered by her bangs again.
Tsukuyo took the paper from the ninja. “Sarutobi…”
“You’d better not screw up. Because if I found Gin-san sad because of you, I’ll hunt you down, you hear me?” said Ayame again as she turned her back against Tsukuyo, preparing to take her leave.
Hearing that word came out from Tsukuyo, Ayame stopped on her tracks as she turned her head a bit, not revealing her face, waiting for what Tsukuyo was about to say.
Ayame did not say anything in response as she kept walking and leapt over the wall, leaving Tsukuyo behind. Tsukuyo who watched Ayame finally left noticed something escaped from Ayame’s eyes, but dismissed it soon after. When Ayame landed at the other side of the wall, she straightened up as she took a deep breath, let out a sigh and she looked up at the sky that starting to change colours from sunset.
“Well, I’ve done my part, I can leave the rest to them”, said Ayame trying to cheer herself up. “I guess I should go back to report this to Matsudaira-san…” said Ayame to herself again until suddenly she felt her tears flowing down to her cheek. “Huh? Why am I…” asked Ayame to herself as tears kept falling from her eyes.
Ever since she was kicked out from Yorozuya after meeting Kyouko, Ayame was still stalking Gintoki as usual. She was very shocked when she found out that Tsukuyo was Kyouko’s mother all along, she kept denying the fact until that night, when she saw Tsukuyo confessed to Gintoki, she felt like her heart was pierced by blades. At first she still wanted to linger on hope because she thought Gintoki was not the one who made the first move, until when she saw Gintoki pulled Tsukuyo into another kiss after he gave her another ride back home, Ayame felt like her world had been shattered. She accepted the job from Matsudaira so she can forget things about Gintoki, when she thought that she was starting to feel better, she found out about what happened to Kyouko. Thinking back of what she did back there made her realise that she was still in love with Gintoki, and Kyouko was his daughter.
As Ayame was busy wiping away her tears, the kunoichi noticed someone nearby. She looked at her side to find Otae and Kyuubei were watching her.
“Otae-san, Kyuubei-san… What are you doing here?” said Ayame with a hint of shock as her eyes were still red from weeping.
Apparently, while accompanying Kagura who was still a bit depressed, the brunet noticed that Gintoki took a bit too long of his time, so she decided to look for him. Kyuubei who noticed Otae going out of the room automatically also went after her, only to be stopped by Otae when they reached a corner of the hallway. When the girls peeked from the corner, they saw Gintoki and Tsukuyo were comforting each other. Not wanting to intrude, they decided to go away. Otae remembered that Kagura’s clothes were in total mess from the fighting when Shinpachi found the yato girl, so she decided to go home first escorted by Kyuubei to get a new spare of clothes. When they walked passing the compound, they managed to overheard Tsukuyo and Ayame’s conversation despite being separated by a wall.
“Um… We’re just passing by… We don’t mean to eavesdrop or anything”, said Kyuubei answering Ayame’s question.
Knowing that the two girls had heard everything, Ayame looked back up to the sky as she spoke up few seconds later. “Say, Otae-san…”
Otae and Kyuubei only listened and watch the woman with concerned eyes.
“Am I… Am I doing the right thing, right now?” asked Ayame turning to look at the girls, her voice started to break down. “I… I…” said Ayame stuttering, trying her best to hold herself up.
But suddenly, Otae just simply pulled Ayame into a hug. The former’s face was putting on a warm expression and tender smile, her hands moving to comfort the kunoichi.
“It’s alright Sarutobi-san…” said Otae with gentle voice. Upon hearing Otae’s voice, Ayame’s tears started to swell up as she blinked. “You have been very strong… So it’s fine, now…” said Otae again.
Ayame could not hold back any longer. As she hugged Otae back, she buried her face on the girl’s chest as she finally cried to her heart’s content. Kyuubei could only stand in silence while she watched Ayame bailing her eyes out. Over the other side of the wall, Tsukuyo could hear Ayame’s cry. As she decided to ignore the cry, she folded out the paper she received earlier then she read what was written. Her eyes widened at the revelation. After a moment of silence, Tsukuyo’s eyes were glittering with determination as she burned the paper with a match that she usually used for her kiseru. Leaving the burning paper behind, she took a step forward.
Sougo who was still on his position outside Kagura’s room finally could not stand the sight of his supposed to be rival. He walked in, approaching the yato girl and Shinpachi beside her. His reddish brown eyes looked down at Kagura who was still looking down at her blanket, then he looked at Shinpachi.
“Four-eyes, how is she doing now?” asked Sougo deadpannedly.
“Um… I think she still needs some more time to recover…” said Shinpachi nerveously at the captain, then he looked back at Kagura.
After seeing Kagura’s wound, Sougo noticed that her wounds have completely healed, but he also noticed that Kagura still feeling down. His lips curved bitterly as he spoke up. “Ah-ah… Leave her be, four-eyes. Just let that weakling girl stay moping over there”, said Sougo still looking down at Kagura.
“Okita-san, you’re going too far!” said Shinpachi scolding Sougo.
“Oh, is that so? Then I’m sorry. But if she’s not a weakling, than why is she keep on lamenting what is done instead of doing what must be done now?” asked Sougo in return.
Upon hearing the response, Shinpachi could not say anything because a part of him also agreed with Sougo. Kagura only flinched a bit when she heard what Sougo said.
“The China I know will always rises up right away and storming the enemy again like an idiot. Well, I guess she’s not as dumb as I thought, but she’s more pathetic than I thought…” Sougo finished and he turned his back on the two Yorozuya, taking his leave.
“Wait, Okita-“ said Shinpachi calling out to him but something stopped him from behind.
When he turned his eyes on Kagura, Shinpachi saw the girl was holding his sleeve. “Shinpachi…” said Kagura, her eyes still hidden behind her bangs. “Can you get my umbrella, yes?” asked Kagura looking up to the older teenager.
Shinpachi saw Kagura’s eyes were filled with determination. After staring at her for a second, he nodded at the request, then he quickly left the room to get Kagura’s weapon. Kagura quickly slapped both of her cheeks as another boost, her eyes even more determined, knowing what she had to do at the moment.
When Shinpachi ran out from the room, the glasses man did not notice that Sougo was still standing next to the door. Sougo only crept up a smile after noticing his rival’s return, then he proceeded to join the others in investigation. But before he walked far enough from the room, Yamazaki appeared in front of him.
“What is it, Yamazaki?” asked Sougo when the other officer called out to him.
“We found another lead, so vice-chief sent me to inform you. It’s regarding the location of main base operation of those kidnappers and the other rogue joui”, said Yamazaki handing Sougo a document.
Sougo opened the document and started to read the content. Behind him, Kagura from inside the room could see far enough to peek at the document that Sougo was reading. As Kagura and Sougo reached at the conclusion, both of their eyes widened at the news. Sougo closed the document as he rethorically asked Yamazaki, “Seriously?”
Kagura who went back into her room was ruffling her own hair in disbelief.
“Really, that place?” thought Kagura as she was stretching herself to regain her senses.
Sougo who walked down the corridor had his eyes lighting up. “I guess it doesn’t matter… Those bastards will pay for taking someone else’s personal prey…” thought Sougo as he entered his room to prepare himself.
On the way bringing Kagura’s parasol back to the room, Shinpachi met with Kyuubei and Otae who come back to give Kagura a change of clothes.
“Shin-chan… What are you doing? How’s Kagura-chan?” asked Otae bringing a bag filled with clothes.
“She’s fully recovered now, ane-ue. She just asked me to bring this back to her”, said Shinpachi with relieved smile on his face.
“By the way Shinpachi-kun. I just got an info from Toujou and guess what, Kyouko-chan might be at…” said Kyuubei to Shinpachi.
“I got to bring this back to Kagura-chan!” said Shinpachi running leaving the girls as soon as he heard the answer.
Later at night, Gintoki was walking alone along the street of Edo, heading towards destination that Katsura mentioned to him. While he was walking, he found a woman with blonde hair was standing and smoking her kiseru, the way she looked at him as if she has been expecting him to show up.
“I told you to stay at the headquarters, didn’t I?” said Gintoki staring at Tsukuyo.
“And where’re you going alone?” replied Tsukuyo walking closer to the man. “Didn’t we just agree that we’ll do this together?” said Tsukuyo pushing her face towards his and jabbed her finger on Gintoki’s chest, causing the man’s head to flinched backwards.
“Okay, okay, my bad!” said Gintoki giving Tsukuyo a light push away from him.
“Don’t count us out, yes!” suddenly a voice came out.
When Gintoki and Tsukuyo turned their heads, they found Shinpachi and Kagura, now wearing a new set of cheong-sam brought by Otae, were standing together with their respective weapons, a shinai and a purple parasol. Sadaharu was also following behind them with his wounds have healed as well. Gintoki was about to say something at his two Yorozuya, but decided not to since he already knew that the two would not stop no matter what he said, so he just walked away with Tsukuyo, reluctantly letting the other two youngsters and the giant dog to follow from behind. Suddenly another voice came out behind them.
“What the hell are you guys doing?” said the voice that is familiar.
This time, when the gang looked behind them it was Sougo who came up. He was wearing his casual clothes with his katana on his waist instead of his Shinsengumi uniform.
“Right back at you, sadist. What the hell are you doing? Shouldn’t you with the other tax robbers?” asked Kagura back in annoyance.
“That’s mean of you, China. At night my shift is technically over so I’m free to do what I want. And shouldn’t you just stay in bed? Or are you perhaps motivated by what I said?” said Sougo but then he teased the yato girl.
Kagura tried to hide her blushing face because indeed, thanks to what Sougo had said earlier, Kagura knew what she had to do. But she finally snapped again. “Yeah, yeah. I’m getting all pissed off because hearing what you said. Happy?” said Kagura yelling.
“Hmmm…. Quite”, replied Sougo smiling in content.
“Are you sure coming with us, Soda-kun? There’ll be a lot of guys to arrest, you know?” asked Gintoki at Sougo.
“It’s sougo. Boss, I’m currently not a police officer so I didn’t come for arrest. I come for the killing”, said Sougo showing his sadistic looks on his face. “Besides, the place you’re heading now is technically out of government’s reach, including Shinsengumi. So…. Where are we going again?” asked Sougo to Gintoki.
“We’re going to raid Night King’s Fortress at Yoshiwara once again!” said Gintoki with confidence as he took the first step forward, followed by the others.
“Um, Gin-san. To be precise it’s actually The Underground Base beneath Yoshiwara”, said Shinpachi correcting while walking behind.
“Whatever Base at Yoshiwara, Shinpachi. Shut up!” said Gintoki annoyed at Shinpachi’s unnecessary retort.
The Yorozuya, along with Courtesan of Death and Shinsengumi First Division Captain made their way towards Yoshiwara to rescue Sakata Kyouko.
Meanwhile, at the same time
“And… There. Good as new”, said the old mechanic finishing up tuning a part of his new time machine.
Gengai had just finished patching up his time machine. Now the time machine was looked more advanced with new adjustments here and there. Gengai decided to do a quick test with the machine. “Let’s just see real quick here”, the old man muttered as he pushed the power button.
The machine lighted up and let out a beeping sound, alerting the mechanic. “What the- Again?” said the old man seeing his time machine had received another signal.
Gengai read the signal came from the exact same source as when Kyouko came for the first time, as the machine’s light was projecting the incoming object, the old man did not see one figure that came out from the light, but two, two adult figure, a man with silver hair and a woman with blonde hair.
“You… You guys are…!” said Gengai in surprise when he recognised the two figures in front of him.