CHAPTER 1: The Curse

Saito stood, his back pressed against the wall, ready to unsheathe his sword. This was his first mission within the Shinsengumi, a group of highly trained swordsmen who fought for the Tokugawa Shogunate. He had to kill a group of samurai who were staying at an inn in the heart of Kyoto. They were members of the Ishin Shishi, the group that was fighting against the Shinsengumi and the Tokugawas. Saito glanced at another, fairly new member of the Shinsengumi, Okita Soushi. Even thought he was new, Okita was the leader of the first squad of the Shinsengumi; he was supposedly the strongest of all of the members. Saito inched toward the door, pulling the sword out of its sheath. Okita crept up to the door, also unsheathing his sword, ready to cut the thin shoji door down. Okita cast Saito a glance and nodded. Then, Okita sprang forward with a loud yell and slashed the door down. Saito ran into the room after him, hearing the yells of other Shinsengumi members on other floors. The attack on the Ishin Shishi had begun.

"It's the Shinsengumi!" one of the men sitting in the room gasped, reaching for his sword and fumbling to unsheathe it. Okita swiftly disposed of him and began to attack the others. Saito sprang forward with a Hiratsuki, making sure to do it just as he was taught. He felt it go into a body and the man sank to the floor. Saito's face twisted into an odd expression: he'd only killed one man before, and that was by accident. He had never intentionally killed a man before. The man coughed a few times before dying completely. Saito nearly gave up and ran out of the room at the sight of the body on his sword, but thought better of it. Saito turned to the two Ishin Shishi members at the far side of the room. Okita had his back, so Saito decided to just attack without hesitation. He charged in with the left-handed Hiratsuki technique and stabbed another man. He tossed that one to the side, then began to advance on the last one. He could hear Okita finishing the others on the other side of the room and decided to finish his job quickly. The man in front of him as thin and frail, and it appeared that he had never picked up a sword in his life. Although unarmed and against a member of the Shinsengumi, the man was very calm.

"You're a member of the Shinsengumi, a Miburo," the last man said. Saito nodded.

"Yes, I am," he said. "And according to our laws, I must kill you." The man smiled weakly.

"I know," he said. "And you will probably kill many more before this war is over." The man stood up and pulled a small gold ball and held it up so that it shone in the light. Saito slid into the Hiratsuki stance.

"What I do later is not of your concern, sir," Saito said. "Goodbye." He sprang forward, driving the sword into the man's heart. The man held up the ball.

"Do you like this color?" he asked, completely calm. "It's nice, isn't it? Like the color of the setting sun. Like the twinkling of stars." Saito stared, mesmerized by the glinting of the golden sphere. Then, he shrugged.

"Why you care about my opinion, I don't know, though I must admit, it is quite nice," Saito said, watching the dying man carefully. The man grabbed Saito's hand and pressed the gold ball into his palm.

"Then I curse you with it," the man mumbled. "For every man that you kill, a fleck of gold will appear in your eyes so that my allies will know who you are forever." Saito looked at the ball, then back at the man in disbelief.

"My eyes?" Saito asked. The man nodded, using the last of his strength.

"Yes. For every man you kill, a fleck of gold will replace a fleck of the brown that your eyes are now," the man repeated. "And the Ishin Shishi will always know you by your eyes." Then, he fell limp, a smirk-like smile plastered on his lifeless lips. 

"What was that all about?" Saito wondered, pulling his sword out and sheathing it. He examined the golden ball, then pocketed it. He turned back to Okita.

"So, how was your first mission, Saito-san?" Okita asked. Saito smiled.

"It was exciting," he said. "Will they all be like this?" Okita shook his head.

"No," Okita said, sheathing his own sword. He headed for the door. "The other two that I have been on have been in the day, and the men who we fought were a lot harder." Saito nodded. He thought about the events that night as they made their way back to the Shinsengumi headquarters with the other attackers. They arrived in a matter of minutes and Okita opened the door and walked casually inside. Once everyone was in, he shut the door and bolted it tight. Everyone retreated to their rooms.

"Goodnight, Okita-san," Saito said to the young man. Okita smiled and bowed.

"Goodnight, Saito-san," he replied, heading up the stairs to where all the leaders slept. Saito walked down a hallway to his room, which was on the ground floor. He slid open his door and walked in, sliding it closed behind him. He unfolded his futon and sat on it, pulling the golden ball out of his pocket. He stared at the ball in wonder, turning it over in his hand. It was smooth and not a bit of it was tarnished. It seemed to glow in the dim light. Saito quickly undressed and put on a yukata, tucking the ball into the folds of his uniform. Then, he placed his neatly folded clothes in a cabinet. He slid under the covers and blew out the candle, falling into a deep sleep.

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A/N: Saito will be VERY OOC for the first few chapters because he's young and inexperienced. I mean, he just entered the Shinsengumi. Also, I don't know if he was the leader of the third squad when he entered, so I'm just saying that he wasn't. Sorry, history, you just don't play a big part in my fics.

Ha ha… I haven't posted anything in a long while, huh? Well, hope you liked my first chapter. Any suggestions are appreciated!! ^_^

Also, thanks to everyone who read any of my stories. It's encouraging!!