I giggled and laughed with Hijikata as we teased Saito about his grim expression. The carriage was taking us approximately eight miles due east of the small village that the three of us and all of our surviving friends from the war, had managed to construct. I had no idea where we were going however, because Hijikata wouldn't tell me, claiming it to be a surprise.
"We've arrived!" The driver called. Hijikata (Toshi) guide me out of the carriage after him, gently holding my hand. He paid the driver and sent him on his way. Confused I asked him, "Don't we need a ride back?"
Toshi replied, "Yes, but we'll be here overnight, so I figure he can just come back to pick us up in the morning." I smiled inwardly. It was just like Toshi to think of things that normal people didn't. He was just that kind of caring person, who always thought about others first, instead of himself.
Saito began walking down the narrow path, carrying most of our camp-out supplies. Hijikata carried the other load, but as I constantly nagged him about the danger of carrying such a heavy load; he wasn't Saito, and he had not enough muscle to handle it, and Saito was even carrying less, and so on so forth...Hijikata finally relented and handed me my knapsack and some of the food. We had no water, as Saito had said that we would be in the vicinity of a freshwater stream. This was our first getaway, the three of us together, since before the war.
When the war ended, I discovered that we hadn't gotten rid of everyone who wanted my blood. Two families, the Sakamaki and Mukami brothers, were fighting each other relentlessly for my blood. I was abducted by the Sakamaki brothers, and endured a week with them, my blood being forcefully taken, while I was locked in a dark room. Then the Mukami brothers came to steal me from them, and as they took me from the Sakamaki's house, they ran into Hijikata and Saito who had been looking for me. There was an awful fight before the brothers finally retreated.
After that, I had simply refused to be alone, to so much as leave the village without Saito or Hijikata. It has been a month and a half since then. And Hijikata, taking the most of my first venture out, had brought me to the most beautiful glade I had ever seen.
It was just past dark, the stars were twinkling beautifully in the sky. Saito was already asleep under a pile of blankets and his head resting on his makeshift pillow; his bundled up cloak. I was wrapped in Hijikata's strong arms, my head on his chest, as we stared up into the sweet night air. I leaned over and kissed him softly. He kissed me back, then said, "Sleep." I buried my face in his chest and he pulled me closer to him, still stroking my hair. Within moments, both of us were asleep.
I woke to the sound of birdsong and trickling water from a stream. To my left, Saito was hugging his sword and curled into a little ball, his usually grim face softened so he looked like a small child. To my right, Hijikata was sleeping, with his face turned completely up to the sky. I smiled quietly to myself, and got out of the makeshift three-person sleeping bag. Leaning over, I rummaged through the supply bag and found a waterbottle and some paper. Just in case they woke up, I wrote Saito and Hijikata a note to let them know I would be going to fetch some water from the stream. I set the note on the bag, grabbed the bottle, and set off towards where I heard the sound of trickling water.
When I reached the stream, it was about seven minutes after I had left. I crouched down and filled up the bottle with the crystal clear water. As I stood up and tightened the cap, preparing to walk back, I felt something. Something...wrong. Something that didn't belong here. Quickening my pace, I began a slight jog back down the path. As I passed a particularly large tree, a hand reached out and grabbed my arm. I whirled around….right into the chest of Ruki Mukami!