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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:31 pm
The front of the Office of Domestic Affairs was guarded only by two, regular, police officers. They were unsuspecting of any trouble, least of all warriors from ten years ago. The last thing on their minds was a plot to kill the Minister of Domestic Affairs. The officers wore the normal, westernized uniforms traditional to officers of the law - navy blue with copper buttons - complete with sidearm and a western saber.

How ironic, to the Shinsengumi who lay in wait in the deep shadows of the alleys surrounding the front of the Minister's office, that they would look upon the new lawful authorities in Kyoto. After all, the Shinsengumi used to be the law, the secret police, of Kyoto only ten years ago - how different these men were from each other. In their eyes, these policemen were corrupt, weak, and only performing their jobs for monetary value - whereas the Shinsengumi worked to defend their Lord, the people, and their own honor with the blade. Times had indeed changed, and for the worst.

It was now a normal occurrence to find police officers using their power for greed; flaunting it before the citizens, helplessly undefended from these dogs of the government. There was no longer any honor in being a protector, if the people couldn't even depend upon a defense against those who held power over them. In this regard, the Shinsengumi deemed the Meiji government far inferior to the late Shogunate. It was time for a change, one for the better.

Clad in robes of all black, and balaclavas covering all but their eyes, they lurked noiselessly as their comrade surveyed the Ministers office. It was a large, westernized building - baroque in style and construction, complete with stone columns and an engraved facade to the front, bearing statues and all the influences that came along with the West. It was ironic to note that the Empire had closed its doors to the West, yet claimed to want to become a nation in their likeness. Quite the paradox.

Toshizo Hijikata crouched over by Isami Kondo, both peered toward the guards, then panned around the entire area, spotting more guards as they went. Obviously, it was not as well defended as a major government facility, however it was obvious that the guards would have to go if the Shinsengumi wanted to complete their task without fail.

Looking to the others behind them; Hajime Saito, Shinpachi Nagakura, and Sanosuke Harada - Kondo nodded, a signal for them to prepare. Drawing their blades, or otherwise preparing their weapons, the Shinsengumi readied themselves for their first "battle" in ten years.


.......................


Back in Kumiyama, Souji, Heisuke, and Kaede all sat around the table and drank tea. For a while, it had been quiet. Kaede didn't quite know what to do with herself - she was in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, and everything about her current situation was just... unfamiliar. She almost wished she had that false sense of security back. Souji however, always the out-going type, broke the silence.

"Well, I suppose we should tell you our plans then, Kaede-chan. After all, you're now involved in one way or another." Souji started.

"Souji! Shouldn't we wait for the Vice Commander?" Heisuke said concernedly.

"I don't think what he would say would be any different, Heisuke. Either way, she needs to know where she stands in all of this." Souji replied simple, shrugging his shoulders.

Heisuke went silent, as so Souji took that as a cue to continue. Clearing his throat, he looked back to Kaede, staring into her deep hazel eyes.

"Simply said, we are going to destroy the Meiji government, by any means possible." Souji paused when he saw her eyes widen in shock. "But, we wish to restore the Old Regime. The Shogunate was far superior to this current infrastructure - and it still held values such as honor, loyalty, and trust. No longer does this government care of values, or dignity, or tradition... no, it's just filled with greedy bureaucrats and politicians only looking to further their own ends. We, of the Old Regime, wish to reinstate the Shogunate... the Tokugawa Shogunate." Souji ended.

Kaede was speechless by the end of his talk. She had no idea they wanted to go on such a quest. And, with the last two words Souji said, she had a horrible feeling she understood what they wanted with her.

"I'm sorry... I didn't mean to go on a rant like that. Please forgive me, Kaede-chan. But you must understand - if we can secure the old government back to its old place, you would finally be able to live in peace, you wouldn't ever have to watch over your back again. Your family would be able to regain its lost honor!"

"I DON'T NEED HONOR! AND I WASN'T AFRAID OF ANYONE UNTIL YOU TWO SHOWED UP!" Kaede suddenly exploded, out of fear and anger toward the situation she was now in. What was worse, she had no way to escape it.

With that, she stood up, glaring down with menacing eyes to the two of them. Turning on the spot, her hair whipping around as she did so, the girl stamped over to one of the rooms in the home and slammed shut the shoji door behind her. Souji and Heisuke, obviously surprised by her outburst looked to each other with shock. Heisuke, making to stand up and go to her, was stopped then by Souji. Gesturing him to sit back down, he glanced back toward the closed room with Kaede.

"Leave her be. I think she has a lot to think about right now..." Souji said quietly.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:31 pm
Itsuki woke in the middle of the night, that same nightmare that had been haunting him for weeks waking him up again. He rubbed his eyes slowly and wearily and ran a hand through his hair. His body ached and he was still tired, but sleepless.

Itsuki stood up and opened a window, letting the cool air hit his face. It was still around midnight, so no one was even outside. Despite being under the shelter of his home, he felt so lonely out here. It made him uneasy to think like this, but he could hardly help it.

"Why do I keep having that dream...?" Itsuki said to himself, sighing. "Is there something you're trying to tell me, father?"

For the past month Itsuki kept having a dream about his father. In this dream he was a little boy, walking in the middle of a vast desert. There is no one else around, leaving him alone and scared. After a while however, he sees the figure of his father in the distance, but no matter how much he runs after him, the figure just moves farther and farther away out of his grasp.

"He's been dead for fifteen years," Itsuki said to himself, gripping the window pane tightly. "Fifteen years. I got over it a long time ago, so why am I thinking of it now? Am I so lonely that I miss my dead father? This is ridiculous..."

Itsuki sat on his bed after pacing for a bit, his hand on his forehead, waiting for the thoughts to stop coming. It was impossible to keep living like this. Itsuki, however, was not sure what the solution was. Perhaps he could check a doctor tomorrow to see if there was any way to treat a nightmare. His eyes still wide open, Itsuki laid back down and tried to get some sleep.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:07 pm
A scream pierced the air around the Minister's building, quickly muffled by something - all was eerily quiet then. An arc of blood sprayed onto the damp grass, illuminating it all red within the moonlight far above. Hijikata, cloaked in black, stood above the dead body that lay motionless on the ground, his katana cleaned of its prey's blood. He waved a hand and his four comrades rushed ahead of him. Standing nearby, unaware of what happened to his comrades, another guard was similarly dispatched by Saito, who severed their head from the rest of the body in a single slash of his blade.

The three other members of the Shinsengumi split and ran around the building, taking care of the rest of the guards that patrolled the perimeter of the Minister's Headquarters there in Kyoto. It wasn't a large area, so soon enough the five men met each other before the doors of the facility.

"All guards have been taken care of, Commander." Shinpachi remarked to Kondo who stood by the doors, a hand mere inches away from the knob.

"Right, let's finish this up quickly then." Kondo replied, nodding to his comrades.

Opening the doors quietly, the five of them ran in with a singular goal in mind - kill anyone who was inside. The covert soon turned quite overt within the Ministry as screams tore reverberated everywhere alongside the yells of the attackers. Soon, the marble floored hall was red with crimson blood and the bodies of the massacred. A few of the guards and those working late into the night fought back, though not to much avail as most of the weapons held indoors consisted of simple knives. The cover of darkness and surprise aided greatly in the success of the mission.

The Five of them stood at the top of the stairs on the second level. Two closed double doors loomed just ahead - all lay dead within the building, the last survivor was within the room, likely barricaded and defended by personal guards. The Shinsengumi anticipated this, and thus they stood in wait for the final order to break in and complete the mission.

Outside, a rumble could be heard - it had started to thunder. The slow patter upon the windows of the building told the Five that it soon started to rain, heavier and heavier until it was as a white-noise in the background. Just as a great flash of lightning illuminated the great gall, and a crash of thunder drowned out all noise, the Shinsengumi kicked open the doors of the room and ran into the room. Their mouths were open, showing that below the din of the storm raging on outside, they bellowed their fierce war-cries.

Two guards, both bearing Police-styled Western Sabers fell quickly to the skill and power of the Wolves of Mibu. The Five stood over a retching, man - balding and pale-faced, who cowered in a dark corner of the large room. He was the Minister, or so it seemed. Kondo knelt before the man, his blade resting upon a knee as he stared down to the cowering man.

"Are you Keiichi Suzumiya?"

"Who are you?! W-what do you want from me!?" The man asked with a terrified expression.

"So you are the Minister of Domestic Affairs?" Kondo asked directly.

"Y-yes... I am he. I-I can get you money.. that's what you want, right!? I can get you positions in the government even!"

"How ignorant. It's people like you that make this government truly inferior" Hijikata remarked with a sneer, stepping forward.

Kondo looked to Hijikata, standing up. Hijikata nodded and raised his katana, the gleaming, curved piece of steel arcing into the moonlight of the window.

"We, the Shinsengumi, are here to punish you, Mr. Suzumiya. Please die for your sins."

Swinging down, his sword met with the piercing, helpless screams of the man before his head was lopped off clean from the body. An arc of blood sprayed onto the wall behind and soon a scarlet puddle accumulated upon the floor beneath the crumpled body of the Minister. Hijikata shook his blade clean of blood then ran a white cloth down the edge before sheathing it.

"Mission complete, Commander. We should leave immediately." Hijikata said.

"One moment. Let's leave the Meiji authorities a small hint as to who was responsible for this." Kondo said as he took a blank piece of parchment paper from the Ministers desk.

Fishing out a calligraphy pen, Kondo started to write three characters - Aku Soku Zan. Folding the paper, he folded it and placed it into the slightly clenched hand of the Minister before the Five moved to leave.

Though belief was that the Shinsengumi had all died since the Bakumatsu, surely such a symbol would be all but forget by those who lived through the Revolution. Soon enough, their names would be at the head of every newspaper in the nation - the Meiji would tremble the next morning.

.............................

And that it did. News quickly spread of the Massacre at the Ministry Building, though news of the paper found in the dead Minister's hand would be mysteriously omitted from every page of the paper. All that was known was that the culprits were currently unknown, and a pending investigation was to take place there at the crime scene.

That morning, the "Hawk Strider", Kenji Matsuyori, had grabbed one of the papers (as he tended to do every morning) and read the headline. Behind his narrowed gaze, a sudden flash of interest could be seen in his eyes. A crude drawing representing the Minister (prior to his death) stood at the side of the lengthy article. He wondered then who would wish to kill such a man.

... Only one type of person occurred to him, and that was an Anti-Imperialist. And that wasn't his old Ishin-shishi self talking either.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sun Sep 25, 2011 3:19 pm
"I haven't seen anything like this since the Meiji Revolution," the police chief said, shaking his head as he stared down at the Minister's corpse. "All of them were killed by swords. Another crazy samurai spree."

"This is different, though," Itsuki said, scratching his chin. "These aren't just wild cuts. Look how precise the work is. They wanted to make sure these people were dead, and they didn't waste time in doing so."

Itsuki was at the scene with a few other investigators and a police chief, trying to figure out what the hell was going on here. His breakfast had been skipped after an urgent letter early this morning, so he had been here for a couple hours already. There was blood everywhere and it was likely the worst crime scene that he had ever witnessed. This was the Minister, after all, not just some average Joe on the streets.

"I guess you're right, Itsuki," the police chief said finally. "These aren't ordinary swordsmen. Professionals are what we are dealing with here. How many do you think there were?"

"There's no telling," Itsuki said, shaking his head. "They left no evidence here other than that parchment of paper. Could be twenty, could be five. Hell, it could even be one man."

"Now that's impossible," the police chief replied, chuckling. "But that parchment, what do you think of it?"

The paper they were referring to was found in the Minister's cold, dead hands. It said "Aku Soku Zan," an old saying that meant "Destroy evil immediately." It was a chilling note, but it could be used to further their investigation.

"The saying is oddly familiar--" the police chief began, but was cut off.

"It's an old Shinsengumi saying," Itsuki said, turning away from the Minister's corpse. "That's where you heard it from. The group of elite samurai during the Revolution. That's what they believed in."

'Wait, what are you saying?" the police chief asked, getting a bit worried. "You think it was them? That's crazy, they've been dead for years."

"I don't know about you," Itsuki began, "but when I see a massacre as expertly crafted as this and see this kind of note left behind, I get suspicious. I think it's safe to say that something big is happening. Even if this isn't the Shinsengumi, it's something just as bad. But come on, let's go get some coffee and think this over before coming to any conclusions."
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sun Sep 25, 2011 4:42 pm
Kaede had fallen asleep in the room she locked herself into. She found herself sprawled over the bed, the sheets and covers over her. At some point during the night, it seemed someone had entered to cover her. Despite her feeling thankful, emotions of confusion and worry overtook her. Bolting upright, she looked to the door. It was closed shut, but she was alone. The window at one side of the room was still open, a slight breeze fluttering into the room alongside a warm ray of light. Getting out from the bed, she wrapped her robes around her more tightly, being cold from the breeze of the approaching winter winds. Looking outside, she could see the back yard of the home she was in - a small garden sat by a row of berry bushes. In the center of the yard, a large weeping Cherry Tree leaned over the yard, granting ample shade.

She found her bag by the door, and all her provisions she brought with her. Opening the door, she noted that the house was quiet - Souji and Heisuke must have gone out. Closing it again, she decided to strip, wash up, and change into a fresh set of robes, these being a beautiful rose red and somber green with golden trim and a white inner kimono. Brushing out her long, brown hair, she viewed herself through a mirror. Despite her natural beauty, she couldn't help but notice shadows beneath her eyes - she did have quite a restless sleep it seemed.

"I wonder if I slept at all...." She said aloud quietly to herself as she finished smoothing out her silken hair.

Being presentable, she made her way toward the living room where she had had tea with the two Shinsengumi last night. They were nowhere to be found. Making her way further into the home, she found the kitchen. Entering, she looked around at the rather westernized facilities that surrounded her. For such a traditional house, this was a bit unusual - she couldn't help but note the brass-wear pots and pans and all the other cooking equipment.

As she thought about everything that happened, and truthfully what Soujiro and Heisuke had done for her, she decided to pay them back in some small way at least. Gathering everything she could use, she started to make her hosts breakfast as a small thank you. She had no real desire to escape now, and a feeling dawned on her that she would be seeing quite a bit of these Shinsengumi.


..........................


The team under Kondo and Hijikata had escaped from the Ministry building before any alarms had been raised. As they ran through various side-streets, they directed themselves straight for their meeting spot - the current HQ of the Shinsengumi. There in that part of Kyoto, they would meet up with Souji and Heisuke who had hopefully succeeded in their own task.

After around twenty minutes of constant journeying, they found the two contacts at the end of the street. At this point, the sun had started to rise and people would soon stir, wake up, and go about their daily lives. It wouldn't be long until someone would find the scene of a massacre at the Ministry. Not long at all. Continuing on, they made it to the home and sat around the main table in the living room. Souji checked that no one had followed before shutting the shoji quietly behind.

"Did you find the woman?" Hijikata asked as soon as Souji sat down.

"Yes, she's sleeping at the moment in the spare room." Souji answered quietly.

"I see. Good work. With her under our direct protection, we should have to worry about her well-being so much." Kondo stated as he took a sip of tea.

"Onto the matter at hand, we successfully dispatched the Minister and his ilk. The building is vacant, none were spared. There is nothing to be said any further, I believe." Hijikata said.

Silence pervaded the room as everyone contemplated what was to come next. Hijikata soon broke the silence as he looked to everyone else, he nodded to his Commander as he made to continue.

"Our last objective before we continue into the next phase, is to rescue an old friend from the Meiji dogs. Kazuki Yoshida has been incarcerated for these ten long years, I believe you all know what is to happen to him if we don't intervene.... his Date is coming soon." Hijikata stated with a cold voice.

"A month from now, yes?" Souji said as he took a sip of his own tea.

"Yes, the Meiji wanted to punish the 'Last of the Mibu Wolves' for ten years before he can finally be granted death. I believe he is deemed as the last of the enemies from the Meiji Revolution who has yet to meet the God of Death. Seppuku will be how he dies... by his own request too." Hijikata replied bitterly.

"Once Samurai, always Samurai." Shinpachi said with a grin. "I can't believe it has been ten years since we saw him last..."

"Indeed. I think a reunion is in order." Kondo said with a grin.

Thus, the plans were made to pay their old comrade a visit, that very day. Surely, these activities would greatly stir the Meiji in ways they never thought would happen again. As the plans were finalized after a few hours, noises from the spare room told them that sooner or later Kaede would be awake. With that, they moved outdoors to gather more information on the prison that currently held their comrade Kazuki in chains.

Afterward, returning together, they heard noises within the kitchen. As Souji entered, he found Kaede hard at work making their breakfast. Out of surprise, he stood there and watched noiselessly until she turned from what she was doing and spotted him there.

"Okita-san, please go wait at the table with the rest of them, I'm almost finished."

Nodding, he wondered how her mood had changed so quickly since the night before. First she hated him and the Shinsengumi, next she was making them breakfast? What a strange creature this woman was. With a sly grin, she slid from the kitchen and sat amongst the others. Moments later, Kaede moved out from the kitchen in apron and all, bearing a tray of her homemade breakfast - much to the delight of the weary Shinsengumi that sat around the table.

"You must be Kaede-chan? A pleasure, indeed!" Kondo said with mirth as he was given a plate of food, consisting of omelets, bacon, fruit, and warm morning green tea.

Shinpachi stared at the beautiful girl with shock as if he never saw one before, while Saito merely started on his meal without a noise. Souji snickered as he thanked Kaede and took his own meal. In turn, she returned him a straight face - he wondered what she was thinking, it was always so hard to tell.

One thing was sure, he hoped that there would be more morning like this to be had.


...................


"Yoshida Kazuki, please stand." A cold, low voice called out from the darkness of a circular courtroom.

A single seat bore a lone man, chained to the legs by rings of iron. He was worn in years and looked unkempt - after all he was a prisoner and had been for a decade. He did as he was told, soundlessly. His eyes stared in the direction of the authoritative voice - even though outwardly he appeared weak and chiseled down, his eyes still bore a great flame of resistance. Of an old passion shared by few others. He peered up in pure defiance, noiseless but incredibly intense.

"You have been judged as a killer of many, guilty of hundreds of counts of murder, and most notably an obstacle to the Government's progress. Your Sentence of Death draws near - you shall meet your end a month from now, that is our conclusion. We will use you as an example to those who would see the Meiji Government's untimely end. This is the last time you will be brought before us in court. Do you have any last words?" The voice asked.




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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:16 pm
Kazuki Yoshida sat in his chains, staring down at the ground. Ten long years had passed and he was still as restricted as he always had been. Death wasn't sounding half bad by now. Frankly, Kazuki didn't care what happened any more. All he wanted was to hold on to some sort of blade again. He missed the familiar feel of a hilt in his hands. That is, essentially, why he asked for the noble death of seppuku.

He raised his eyebrow when the speaker asked what his last words were. Kazuki wondered why that question was always asked whenever officials killed anyone. Back then during the Revolution there was no need for words. Speaking them only left you open to the enemy. You only spoke through the sword. Kazuki smirked.

"You think killing me will actually make a difference?" Kazuki laughed. "There are other people out there far more dangerous than I am, and they are really pissed off. I'm just a lunatic behind bars, and you're going to execute me for something I did ten years ago. Talk about justice, right? I would've killed twice as many people if I had the chance, anyways. You're lucky I'm not still out there. Even if ten years have passed... my brothers haven't forgotten. Remember that."
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:16 pm
"Fool! You seriously believe that your brethren are alive? It's been ten years since the Revolution, they were either killed or hunted down after the fact. The Shinsengumi are finished - nothing but a stain on the Meiji's reputation. You're the last remnant of the Dogs of the Shogunate."

"Please, Katsumoto... calm yourself." Another voice said soothingly.

Katsumoto was quiet, but for an indignant grunt on his end. The one who quieted the speaker stood in the shadows, only marked a noise of the slight shifting of a chair and the rustle of clothing. It was deathly quiet for a short time, yet in the silence the tension rose like a blaring white noise.

"Yoshida Kazuki, you have this last month to repent your countless sins. Soon, you will join your Shinsengumi dogs in hell. So, until your time comes, you will be lead back to your cell."

The prisoner said nothing as two armed guards roughly grabbed the prisoner by the shoulders, essentially dragging him from the room and back into a stone hall. Coming up to a single, cast-iron door with but a small barred window to see in, they threw in Kazuki into the dank 10 foot by 10 foot cell.

All the while, he didn't know that it'd only be a few hours until he finally saw the light of day, for the first time in ten years.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:20 am
Kazuki thought about what was said at that friendly meeting a few minutes ago. He realized how foolish he was. Somehow he forgot that he was in this cage for ten years. No one has come for him. How could the Shinsengumi be still active? If they were all still alive, he wouldn't even be locked up like this.

"Idiot..." Kazuki said to himself. "How can I trust in a simple ghost of the past?"

It was hard to admit, but the man he was talking to was probably correct. Even though he had been locked up for quite a long time, Kazuki knew that the Shinsengumi were all but diminished.

But perhaps there was some sort of hope left. A possible remnant could still exist. There was no way to tell, however, as news from the outside world rarely came to Kazuki.

"Looks like all I have left to look forward to is my own death," Kazuki said to himself. "I don't regret anything that I did ten years ago. I'd do it all over again if I could. I could care less about Meiji's idea of honor.

Closing his eyes, Kazuki attempted to catch some sleep. It was the only thing he could really do, anyways, other than talk to himself. Kazuki talked to himself for ten years. Now he was just getting tired of it.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

on Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:23 pm
The Shinsengumi had gathered together. One person was missing, and that happened to be a man incarcerated within a maximum protection prison. Being a war criminal from ten years prior, not to mention a well-known murderer prevented his comrades from any means of easy access. However, perhaps Kazuki's lucky day would come sooner, rather than later.

Souji and the others had gathered around the table, alongside their guest, Kaede who seemed grudgingly interested in their activities. What else would the girl be able to do aside from tag along with them. She was wanted dead by everyone within the Meiji Government... and the Shinsengumi seemed trustworthy enough in that they all swore to protect her. Even should such protection cost them their lives. With nowhere to go, and no real family or friends... this group of soldiers, even bodyguards were the only people left for her.

This wouldn't stop her from complaining along the way of course...

Gathered around the table, sitting upon soft cushions and sipping tea, Toshizo started to speak of the rather ingenious and daunting plan ahead of them. They had learned of the Police Ball, an annual event taking place at the Security Bureau of Eastern Kyoto Ward, coincidentally where Kazuki was held. The prison was connected to two other buildings - a Great Hall used by the Head of Police and Domestic Security, as well as the local barracks. This ball would be held in the Great Hall, considering the large area that was perfect for such an extravagant affair.

The plan, as crazy as it sounded, was their only real chance to slip into the prison and break Kazuki out. Souji, Sanosuke, Heisuke, and Shinpachi would all essentially pose as waiters at the ball. This would require a bit of dirty work... killing the registered waiters and the head chef in order to fit in. In addition, forged passes had to be made in advance allowing free reign so they could walk in and out. If all went according to Toshizo's plan, that work would be the most difficult part.

Disguised, they would be able to slip into the Prison quarter of the complex and break out Kazuki while two others would stay at the party, cause a distraction of some kind to bring attention away from those breaking into the prison. As the decoy is placed, the prisoner would be freed and the escape would be made. Plans were to leave another small clue at the cell in order to slowly, but surely, bring the Shinsengumi back into the spotlight.

After Kazuki is extracted from the compound and safely brought back to the Shinsengumi's HQ, immediate plans were to be put into order for everyone's silent evacuation to the original HQ, Mibu. Not only did this hold such a strong significance to those original members of the Shinsengumi, but it was a region still heavily disconnected from the Meiji. Much of the population was still loyal to the Tokugawa. Surely, the people would find their loyalties gravitated toward the Shinsengumi and their righteous cause.

So, while Operation Red Hare (as the break-in was dubbed), occurred, Kondo Isami would see to it that Mibu was left open to them through a few contacts of his. The restoration of the old HQ would take a while, but during the ten years of waiting, much money had gone into savings for such an occasion.

The ball was starting the next day -- tomorrow -- and so would the Shinsengumi's daring escape plan.
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Re: Chapter 1: Tranquility's End

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