Kondo was still in Edo, away on business to expand the Shinsengumi, when the investigation over the three mysterious deaths began. Hijikata had sent Kondo a letter immediately to the commander with the news. He had also requested Kondo continue acting as usual, as creating a panic in Edo was the last thing the Shinsengumi needed, especially with things going so well.
Souji didn’t think it was a good idea, personally. He thought Hijikata was taking this investigation all wrong. Interviewing the citizens of Kyoto won’t yield any fruit, and imposing these ridiculous curfews didn’t get them any closer to finding this mysterious killer.
Yet he couldn’t argue with Hijikata’s reasoning either. Interviewing the citizens might have, under normal circumstances, gone nowhere, but the people of Kyoto had become fearful. Rumors of just what killed those men had gotten out of control, with yokai and demon possession being favors stories to tell, but Kyoto no longer saw the Shinsengumi as a threat. After all, the Shinsengumi was making an extra effort to protect the citizens, and the people, even hardcore loyalists, saw the benefit of aiding the Shinsengumi in finding whatever caused these unfortunate deaths.
It was an even bigger shock when a representative from the Shimazu han came to Aizu with the promise of aid, should the Shinsengumi or Aizu find the killer. These killings were actually doing a lot of good, all things considered, as it was putting formidable enemies as allies. Then again, there was the saying of, “An enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
But of course, these were unsolved murders, and gruesome ones at that. The city was still plagued with fear, no matter how much damage control the Shinsengumi attempted to do to calm the people. This got the city wide curfew enacted in order to prevent future slayings, and the ripples of this and the general atmosphere made Souji lose one of the few pleasures he had; playing the local children.
Fathers and mother prevented their children from playing in the streets even in the daytime. Sons and daughters had to be escorted by their family everywhere, the fear of a dangerous monster lurking around every corner fresh in everyone’s minds.
On this particular day, Souji found himself unbelievably bored. Hijikata, ever the mother hen he was, caught Souji having a nasty coughing fit and forced the captain to take the day off. Of course, under normal circumstances, he would have gone to wander the city, entertaining the children in the neighborhood and eating sweets along the way. And maybe ignore a few of his comrades, should he run across one.
Ah, but alas, Hijikata was as bad as the frightened parents, making Souji promise that he wouldn’t leave the compound at all. Which meant Souji was left to be impossibly, unbearably bored.
Until he ran into Chizuru, busy at work sweeping the compound.