In answer to some questions, since I was the first to publish a Hakuoki fanfic:

No I've never played the game and I don't think I ever will since I'm not a game fan, but I admit I am in love with the artwork-the inspiration for all my fanfic. I also value the historical significance of the Shinsengumi and am an ardent fan of the real Hijikata and Saito-he was one of the very few who actually survived all the chaos! To be honest, I've always been drawn to historical tragedy: Shinsengumi, Elizabeth, Jefferson (his personal life), Keats, Shelley… Sadness and reality really make things come alive. Also, I'm not an emotional person, so whenever I feel anything, I feel it deeply: 'still waters run deep' (just like the portrayal of Saito!).

That concludes why I choose to write Hakuoki fanfic. I admit it's not all excellent, and that your opinions will (and should) clash with mine, but the above provides justification, so I hope you will enjoy them for what they are: stories and snapshots, nothing more. ^_^

Always Beside You

Chapter 1: A Dangerous Encounter

In the incident after the Ikedaya Affair, there was a surprise attack on the Shinsengumi Headquarters. The infiltrators set the quarters on fire and escaped unnoticed in the chaos that followed. While the Shinsengumi frantically poured water on the growing flames, Hijikata sent Souji and Saito after the enemy. They followed the enemy into the surroundings woods where they lost trace in the thickets.

"Well isn't this great?" murmured Okita. "First the enemy surprises us, burns our stores, and now disappears! We can't report back without their heads. It's too embarrassing-"

"Souji! Be quiet for a moment, will you?" Saito strained his ears. There was a faint rustle to their right. In a flash, Saito drew his blade and made a clean sweep of the thicket. As the leaves scattered around them, the head of a stag fell at Saito's feet, leaving a bloody trail from where it had rolled.

"Huh, it was only a deer!" Okita glanced away from all the crimson. It was painful to look at the blood gushing out of the animal's mouth.

Saito made to sheath his katana, but suddenly stopped.

"They're here," he warned as two shadows appeared from behind a tree.

"Well, well for someone on edge, you sure have sharp senses," remarked an oily voice. Saito surveyed the stranger.

He was a tall man with dark skin and wavy hair tied in a high ponytail. There was no sword on his waist. It seemed he carried no weapon.

When Saito's gaze fell on the other man, a flash of recognition sparked in them.

"Amagiri Kyuuju," he muttered.

Amagiri smiled, also recognizing Saito. "We meet again."

"So it seems. Will you care to state your business?"

"Business?" The other man scowled. "Aren't we allowed to come and go as we please?"

"You would if what just came to pass didn't make you suspects."

The two exchanged glances.

"We don't know what happened," Amagiri began, "but I assure you, the Satsuma clan had no part in it-"

"You can say that if you can prove it," Okita replied, drawing his blade.

"We don't wish to fight-"

"Come now, they're asking for it!" the other man cried. "Let's just give it to them Kyuuju-"

"Kyou! We didn't come here to pick fights-"

"But that's exactly what you're doing," Saito cut in. "I'll ask you once again to state your business. If not, we'll have to spill it out of you by force."

Amagiri's eyes narrowed. "If this is still about avenging your comrade after what happened at Ikedaya, then I'm afraid your revenge is in poor taste because we don't wish to fight you."

So this is the man Heisuke fought, Okita thought. He looks strong…

He glanced at Saito and saw him sheath his katana. He couldn't believe it! Were they going let them go? He wanted to protest, but just as his lips parted, Saito said,

"If you want peace, quietly follow us back to the headquarters. You can explain yourself thoroughly to the Captain."

Amagiri smiled. It was like watching a caged tiger smirk.

"You know we won't do that. We didn't come here to chat with the Shinsengumi. If word of this gets out, people will think the Satsuma clan has befriended the Bakufu dogs-"

"And? What's wrong with that?" Souji retorted. "They'll finally think the clan's regained its senses."

"I ask you again, return with us," Saito said.

Amagiri turned to his companion. "Kyou, I leave things to you."

"Ah, I'll teach them not to stick their long noses in everyone's business."

And Kyou faced them as Amagiri turned to leave.

Like I'll let you, thought Okita, drawing his katana and rushing towards Amagiri. Hajime-kun, I'll leave the rest to you.

Sensing Okita leave his side, Saito waited for the enemy to lose his guard. Just as Souji made his way towards Amagiri, Kyou followed him with his eyes. That was all Saito needed.

Drawing his katana with razor sharp speed, he attacked Kyou, who, although thrown off his guard managed to dodge the blow and jump back. A strand of his long hair grazed Saito's blade and scattered in feathery pieces on the grass.

"Heh," Kyou smirked. "Not bad, but you're a hundred years too early to defeat me," and as he spoke, he drew a gun. "You seem fast enough. Stop it, if you can."

Shit! thought Saito as Kyou aimed at Souji's fading back. He was still chasing Amagiri who hadn't stopped to fight because he trusted Kyou to cover him.

Saito clenched his sword as Kyou raised his thumb to pull the trigger.

Now! thought Saito and throwing his katana like a spear at Kyou, Saito rushed at him, drawing his short sword as he ran. Kyou easily dodged the flying sword and blocked Saito's attack with the iron guards on his wrist.

"You know, some may say I play dirty, but really, we've long outgrown the Stone Age, don't you think so?"

And Kyou pulled the trigger.