Disclaimer: I do not own Gintama. It is owned by the awesome Sorachi Hideaki-sensei, Sunrise and Shueisha.

Rating: T

Genre: Romance, Tragedy

Summary: An annual festival at Yoshiwara creates a chance for Gintoki to learn more about the death of Shouyou-sensei, while Tsukuyo learns about the truth of her abandonment.


Author's Notes: I am so sorry for the late update! But before that, let me just say that I've just survived Typhoon Haiyan (If you watched the news, you've probably heard that Haiyan / Yolanda had hit the Philippines really hard) and thank goodness I'm still alive! I'm glad my place wasn't really hit even though we are under Signal No. 3 (highest is 4), but other places in the country weren't lucky enough… Let us pray for them and I hope everything will be okay ASAP!

Enjoy the chapter and beware of too much sappy and clichéd romance! Don't kill me please! *hides*

Lots of love to the following: nukidono14, Ginallen, Killuminator, Number-SE7EN-MrsGluttony, The Cloned One, ATM, Rhaide AND Souichirouchan, Gintsu fan, I-Howl-AT THE-moon, Anonymous, ex-pervyguy, Chibi-Onee-chan, DivineKitten, an-co-xx, cruorem, Hummingbird, Lazy Gaga, NCISMcAbbyISthebest, NekoiKurona, DarkAndStormyNight, KeyToTheTruth, anon, Gurako-san, OROGoldenpair1, W, Candyqueen-sama, Stalker Of Reactions, asdas, CrimsonStar10, Sweet Tsubaki, ElleinadOtaku0w0, MerryGoRound01129, mazzal, jette666, Witch Hunter-eli, she-womanizer, Lady Redgrave DMC, starmie, miso ramen goddess, LoveMadness, VenVen, The Wumbologist, ShiroHachikuji, dentedileone, sadisticnihil, Swirling Circles, Haruka, The Darkbringer, khiaree, heitan, little101, Ginyasha, itazuraramblings, DarkPirateKing69, WhiteHero, kyoandyuya, ReshaTsubaki, The Azure Heart, Redguy221, gattsu, SapphireHeart, Strawwwberrylollipop, ScotSniper, blazingreaper, Takagi Akito, kurowig, PrincessYuuko, Clover, Baskerville, Lady666, IShipGinTsu, Neo Fan, Nerocchi, endless1994, Sven Vollfield, DarkStar56, DanTE1203, Sorademo, Blueberries, M, A Certain Unfortunate Guy, Mouse, reddevil47, iLike2Sleep, rinoaterra, Grapes, karunebulous, Alciel, kurohyacchan, Katou Michinzu, Lady Dalila, springyoshida, Odangocha, Loveyou, A Certain Unfortunate Guy, dreamscape, and Yuuka Setsuko…

みんな、ほんとうにありがとうな!


Truth

(信実Shinjitsu)

A Gintama Fanfiction

By Kurasuchi~


XOXOX

CHAPTER 19

"No one would ever know what he truly means to us."

XOXOX


Tsukuyo couldn't remember the last time she had ever ran like this.

It's as if her feet had a mind of its own. She didn't know why, but she felt extremely anxious and scared for no reason at all. Why was she even running as if her life depended on it? Did something big happen that she even have to do something like this? She's overreacting, perhaps. But saying that doesn't change the fact that she had discovered something really big, something really important and that she was just placed into a grave situation—that if she was ever discovered, then it will probably be the end of her.

"Uehara, you really are one hell of a bastard, aren't you?"

"But I'm not the only one, am I? After all, you're the one who has a beast in you, Takasugi-san."

Those words still kept on ringing in her ears. Indeed, she had a gut feeling that the place which she had found seemed to be really suspicious, but never did she expect it to be like this.

First and foremost, she had found where that bastard Uehara Zennosuke was—which only meant that their infiltration was a success, since their main purpose for that is to find him and make him pay for what he did to Shinpachi and Kagura, as well as to clear Gintoki's name. And now that they have finally made progress, it is only apt that they should make a move.

But she did make a move. Although she almost did not make it. Barely. At least, in her own opinion.

After all, as soon as she realized that she had entered the enemy's lair unarmed, she immediately made her way to a quick escape without making a single sound, without anyone seeing or noticing her—but she failed. She made a sound when she accidentally knocked down on something, and as soon as that happened, she felt as if she had just met her end.

Dead end.

Her blunder didn't faze her, however. As if an adrenaline rush filled her senses, she just ran and ran until she reached the surface, and continued to run until she had gone far away from her assigned place. She needed to get away from there. She needed to find Gintoki and Katsura immediately. And she can only hope that no one noticed what happened, and that they had just passed it off as a mouse or something. It is highly unlikely, yes, but all she can do is hope. As for now, all that she can do is to find someone on her side.

It was then when the silver-colored epiphany had hit her.

"Gintoki!"

She screamed his name in haste, hoping that she'll somehow catch his attention as he looked so deep in his thoughts (which is kinda rare, especially for a person like him) that he won't even bat an eye at anyone. Luckily, her voice managed to reach him.

He stood up from the bench that he was sitting on, his hands neatly kept inside his kimono. Even though he was wearing a typical uwagi and hakama, it still suited him as he looked like some kind of warrior—well, he is, but that's another story.

With his dead fish-eyes looking at her, his earlier deep-in-thought expression seemed as if it never existed in the first place. As long as he looked like that, one can never know what he's thinking.

"Sup? You seem to be in a rush. What's with the big hurry? You're in a marathon or something?"

Stopping on her tracks and breathing heavily so as to catch her breath, Tsukuyo stood a few steps right in front of Sakata Gintoki.

"I ain't in a marathon, and I ain't have any plans on joining anything like that. Anyway, it's a good thing that you're here. I need to tell you something. You see, I just—"

"You're finally telling me about that, aren't you? That person you're dating?"

"Yeah, it's that—w-what?!"

"It's that, you know. That. Don't tell me you're feigning innocence again? You can't hide it from me. Gin-san has noticed it from early on."

Tsukuyo gave him a piercing glare. "What the hell are you talking about? Are you sure you don't have any loose screws or something? You're spouting nonsense, you permed bastard. Anyway, stop that—I still have something I need to tell you guys. Tell me, where is Katsura? He needs to know about this too."

The Shinigami Tayuu did not know what just happened, but something weird happened with Gintoki as soon as she had mentioned Katsura's name. The serious look that he had before she had approached him came back to his face, as if his friend's name was somewhat of a trigger to make his mood turn sour. Whatever the reason behind it though, it wasn't important. There are still things that are needed to be discussed upon.

"Katsura, huh..?" trailed off Gintoki with an irritated tone, which made her even more confused. "So you're not denying it anymore…"

"Huh? Denying what? What's going on, Gintoki?"

Gintoki took a deep breath and faced her with a stern look.

"You and Zura are dating, aren't you?"

She almost choked herself to death at the mention of this.

"W-What?! Are you freakin' serious? Where the hell did you get that idea? How can you say such a thing, you creepy bastard! I ain't dating anyone! I ain't going out with him!"

"You say that, but I know that you're just hiding it from me. Gin-san's hurt you know? It's because Tsukki kept on hiding things from me… And here I thought that we're friends…"

"Is that your way of asking me to give you the beating of your life..? Yeah, that's what you wanted to say, right? That's the reason why you kept on spouting such nonsense… You know, if you don't stop now then I really am going to rip you up to pieces—"

"Suit yourself! All I know is that you're hiding things from me and you didn't even tell me about it! Hey, since when did the two of you start dating huh? I mean, the two of you didn't know even know each other that well…"

"Gintoki…"

"—It must've been that way because Zura's an idiot, isn't it? Do you have a thing for idiots? Man, that's a waste. Zura's a bad choice alright. Well, it's not like it concerns me or anything but…"

"Oi, Gintoki…"

"—All you need to know is that I know about your relationship! No worries, I'll keep quiet from all the Yoshiwara folks so you can just trust your secret with me!"

"Oi, Gintoki! You goddamned bastard!" she shouted furiously, not being able to take it all anymore. When he still didn't stop on spouting nonsense, she then skewered him with all the kunais which she had hidden on her obi. That method seemed to have worked, much to her relief.

He was now lying on the ground with a kunai on his head, being all immobile and docile. "You bitch… what the hell did you just do…?"

"I'm the one who should ask you that, you bastard," she growled. "I don't have time for your nonsense. Take it somewhere else. I've come here to tell you something really important, but with the way you are right now, I really shouldn't tell it to you. I'm leaving."

"Oi, where are you going?" asked Gintoki as he started to get up on the ground, fixing himself up from the mess that he had been before. "Don't tell me… you're going to Zura, aren't you?"

She turned her back on him and was about to leave when she replied, "Yeah. I'll go see Katsura. At least he'll listen to me, unlike you. See ya."

And with that, she took a step forward and walked away. At least, that's what she's supposed to do. However, she found herself unable to do such a thing since she suddenly found her wrist being held in a tight grip, as if the owner of that hand had no intention of letting her go.

It took her a moment to realize that it was actually Gintoki who was holding her, as if stopping her from leaving. And she didn't understand that.

"G-Gintoki… what are you doing? Let me go," she said in an attempt to brush off his hold on her. "Gintoki! Can you even hear me? I said let go!"

She was only replied back with a serious look from the silver-haired man in front of her.

"Don't go," he said softly, almost like a whisper, but still loud enough for her to hear.

"Eh?"

"Don't go to him."

Tsukuyo blinked a few times, confusion filling her senses. "Huh? What are you talking about, Gintoki? Are you really sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied. "Just… stay. Don't you dare go to him."

"What do you mean by that? You've been acting really odd since yesterday, Gintoki. Who are you referring to anyway? Katsura? Why shouldn't I go to him? But even if you say so, I really need to go and see him, he needs to know about this—"

"Didn't you hear a word of what I've said? I said don't you dare go to him!" he shouted furiously, which surprised her since she had never seen him act like this just because of something so petty. Irritation getting the best out of her, she put aside her recent discovery, opting to argue with him instead.

"Quit acting like a whiny little kid, Gintoki! Tell me, why shouldn't I go to him? Didn't he come here with you in order to help us? That's why it's only fair if I tell him about this too! And why are you so against the idea of me going to Katsura? The fact that I'll go see him is none of your damn business!"

Gintoki was taken aback by this. Indeed, it is none of his business if Zura and Tsukki had gone dating each other. It's their life, and it's not his. It doesn't concern him at all. So why is he so damn irritated whenever she mentions Zura?

"I-I don't know. I just don't like it," he finally said, as if convincing both her and himself of such a fact. "It just irritates me, that's all."

"Then you shouldn't be. I don't see why you should be affected by it. Unless… you have a reason on why you should be. So, what is it? Why are you acting like this? It's not like you, Gintoki."

Confronted with such a blunt question, Gintoki found himself in a pinch as even he himself did not know the answer to her question. Actually, that fact only crossed his mind just now. Why was he even so affected by this? Why does he become so irritated whenever he sees Zura and Tsukki together? Why is he so pissed off by the fact that the both of them are dating? Why did he stop her from going to him, even though he did not even have a reason to do so?

Reluctant and unsure of what to do, Gintoki had loosened his hold on the Shinigami Tayuu. He grumbled to himself. "Alright, I understand. It's your win," he hissed, his irritation becoming more apparent by the second. Tsukuyo, on the other hand, was about to leave when an alarm suddenly rang throughout the headquarters, and before she knew it, she was suddenly dragged towards a dark alley, away from the eyes of the other Sonjouroushi members who were about to pass their way to where they are.

Confused at everything that just happened in a matter of seconds, Tsukuyo tried to think about their current situation. Since an alarm had gone out, then it only meant one thing: she was discovered. And that also meant that they needed to get away from there now. But here she was, hiding in an alleyway with an idiot holding her from behind, his arms encircled across her waist and his hand covering her mouth to prevent her from making any sound.

The same idiot whom she had argued with earlier because he thought that she was dating someone she didn't even know that well.

If only he knew…

She removed his hand that was covering her mouth and looked at him. "Oi, Gintoki… they're already gone, you can let go of me now."

Gintoki did not budge. In fact, he did not even move a single inch and only continued to look down the ground. His expression was obscured by his position and by the lack of light in the area. He did not even make a single sound. He still held her tight in the dark, his hands were still on her waist, and his hand that was once placed on her mouth was now on her chest; she was about to do a suplex on him for that, but—

She was surprised to find him leaning against her, holding her tight in his arms from behind. He even leaned his head against the side of her neck, and he was so close that she can even feel his warm breath against her skin.

Confused at the sudden act of affection—if that can even be counted as such—she reached out to the hand that was settled on her chest and brushed her fingers against it.

"G-Gintoki…?"

Her heart was beating so fast, so fast that she even thought that it would burst. All kinds of emotions filled her at that moment that she didn't even know which one is the one she's really feeling right now. She's probably all flushed now, she's sure of it, so it's a good thing that it's dark or else she doesn't know what she'll do if Gintoki ever sees her like that.

All that she knew was that it was because Gintoki was hugging her from behind that she was feeling such emotions. Only he can invoke such emotions in her.

Only he can make her feel like this, and no one else can.

"Don't say anything else. Even I do not know what I'm doing," he whispered against her ear. She wasn't sure if he did that on purpose or it was just coincidental, but his husky voice made her all weak and mushy inside. Anything else and she's going to go insane, most probably.

"..Gin..toki?"

"Give me ten seconds. After that, we'll go back to the village and look for Zura, okay?"

She doesn't know if he's referring to his hug or to the fact that they're in hiding, but since he asked for a few seconds, then she'll just let it be.

After all, every second spent with him holding her like that felt like hours, to be honest.

XOXOXOX

"We've finally arrived here."

Taking a look at his surroundings, Sakata Kintoki only wore a smirk on his face as he realized that the green-haired android had brought him to a place which he had never been into before, and can only see from afar—the Edo Tower.

"Why did you bring me to a place like this?" he asked, amused. "I don't remember doing anything that will warrant me to be in a place such as this. What exactly do you want from me, anyway?"

"I've already decided to let bygones be bygones," replied Tama with a serious tone, which did not escape his attention. "Kintoki-sama, we are both robots saved by one person—by Gintoki-sama. The reason we are here living our lives is because of him. And now that he needs us, it is only apt that we should pay back our debt to him."

Kintoki chuckled at this. "Debt? I don't remember having any debts towards that guy. Are you sure you aren't hallucinating?"

"Gintoki-sama has already colored you silver a long time ago. If it weren't for his influence, as well as Shinpachi-sama and Kagura-sama's pleas, you would have already been disposed of."

"I wouldn't deny that." He took a few steps towards the glass wall and stared at the scenery right in front of him. They were now at the uppermost floor of the tower, and he can even see all throughout Edo from above—in the right is the top of the Edo castle, and he can even see the ruckus that is happening on the streets.

Ruckus… is that why she had brought me here?

"Tell me, what exactly is happening outside?" he asked, looking back at the green-haired android behind him. "Is this connected with this Sakata Gintoki?"

Tama nodded. "It is exactly what you can see. Gintoki-sama was accused of something he did not do, and supporters of the opposing party have been looking for him. They are now rampaging because of that."

Sakata Kintoki was no idiot. He can clearly see the situation at hand; heck, he can even see clearly how serious it was! And as for the reason why he's brought at the Tower, he can see it clearly as well—after all, they are in Edo Tower, the center of all communications throughout the whole country.

"Let me guess—you want to use me to fix up all this mess, don't you? Sorry, but I just can't do that. If you plan on using my memory modification abilities, I can't do that on a large-scale basis. You can't possibly expect me to modify the memories of all the people throughout Edo, can you?"

"As expected of the perfect Yorozuya leader. You have deduced it correctly," replied Tama with a smile. "Indeed, I did plan to do just that. And don't worry, that is the reason why we're here anyway. After all, this tower is supposed to be the center of all communications. Modifying the memories of all the people throughout Edo is possible."

"Oi oi, are you even serious? I was able to do that before since it was only throughout Kabuki-chou; how can I even modify all the memories of all the people throughout Edo? Even if it's me, I don't have the capabilities to do that."

"As I've said before, you should not worry about that. Aren't you the perfect Yorozuya leader, Sakata Kintoki? Then something like this should be a piece of cake. And besides, I've already asked Gengai-sama to take care of that problem. The only thing left now is you."

"So you plan on using Edo Tower so as to generate and disperse the needed energy waves for hypnosis? How stupid," he remarked. "But okay, I guess there's no harm on trying it… but you better compensate me afterwards. Someday, I'll take the protagonist position for myself."

Tama smiled at this. "Of course. And when you do something stupid again, then I'll be the one to take you out."

Chuckling to himself, Kintoki walked away and went to the centermost part of the area. He was about to start modifying everyone's memories when he said, "I won't assure you that this would be effective, and I doubt that this would actually work at all. However, this would only be effective if that man is truly important to the people out there, as strong feelings sometimes make the simplest miracles come true."

Tama was undeterred and did not even hesitate despite what he said.

"You don't need to worry about that. I am sure… I'm sure that Gintoki-sama is loved by everyone. The bonds that they have forged over 265 episodes and 460+ chapters would not be broken. You knew it firsthand."

Kintoki laughed upon hearing this.

"Bonds, huh…? Let's how strong those so-called 'bonds' of yours are."

XOXOXOX

According to Yagyuu Kyuubei, the people are trying to break their way to Snack Otose in order to search for Gintoki. They have spread out across the streets in order to stir up a commotion that will force the silver-haired samurai to show himself to them, and that's what they're trying to prevent. And thus, they have decided to spread out as well and stop them.

Shimura Tae, together with a band of cabaret girls from Snack Smile, arrived at one of the streets near Snack Otose. She had left the place under the care of Shinpachi and Kagura, while she and the others went out in order to alleviate the situation from the outside. When she arrived at the aforementioned place, a rampage had already been started by a group of armed men, and they were about to go to where her brother and the others were.

Holding her naginata tightly in her hand, she pointed the blade towards the neck of one of the men. Some of them flinched at the notion.

Tae gave them a menacing smile, one that carried a lot of evil intent behind it. "Hold it right there. Where do you think you're going? You're not going to get past through me, you bastards."

The men laughed at this. "What do you think you can do? I mean, what can a group of cabaret girls possibly do against us? You're being ridiculous, miss."

"Yeah! They're probably just talk and all!" one of them also sneered. "I bet they couldn't even handle a decent fight!"

"You guys better go home now before something bad happens to you, miss!"

Not able to take the insults any further, Tae's smile became even more tainted with negative vibes that the people who knew better started to stay off-limits. Without wasting a second, she walked towards them and grabbed the jaw of one of the armed men, which only meant one thing: she was about to wreak havoc upon their lot.

"You think us girls can't do anything, huh? Don't underestimate us. Don't you know who you're talking to? You're only talking to the queen of Kabuki-chou!" she boldly declared, hoping that they will learn not to mess with her. And truth be told, she thought that it will end by doing that. She thought that only the armed men were her enemies.

But she was wrong.

"Why are you doing this?" asked one of the bystanders who witnessed the scene unfold. "They only ask for justice! They want justice for the roju's death, and we won't be able to achieve justice if the alleged suspect isn't caught!"

"That's right," agreed another bystander, "and why are you even siding with them? You should side with the roju! He's the one aggravated in this!"

"I bet that Sakata Gintoki guy was just a worthless human being! I mean, he was even able to murder the roju—"

Stop it.

"I heard that he's just a useless bum who was a notorious criminal. Rumor has it that he even caused a ruckus in the Edo Castle not too long ago… Heck, I heard that he even got involved in the tsujigiri that happened recently… "

"Eh? So that explains why he's such a ruffian.. He's probably one of those criminals, isn't he?"

Just stop it.

"I don't care who that guy is, but I just want him to be arrested! I can't forgive him for what he did to Masayasu-sama!"

"Yeah! They should let that guy be beheaded! He deserves it!"

"Ah, since this woman is defending that guy, does that mean that she's his woman?"

"Eh? What woman? That's obviously a guy! Look, she's like Robert de Flato!"

Infuriated, Tae wasted no more time and punched the guys in the stomach, making them unconscious. Her smile never left her face as she continued on beating up the armed men.

"Who the hell are you calling a man, huh? Who the hell do you think you're referring to as Robert de Flato?! I can hear everything that you say, you bastards!" she screeched in irritation. "And for your information, I'm not Gin-san's woman, and I will never be! Even I have standards!"

But the people did not take heed of it. They still continued on badmouthing Gintoki, which left a bad aftertaste on her, much to her dismay. Unable to take it any longer, she broke a smirk and chuckled to herself a bit afterwards.

"Seriously, what are you guys even talking about? You're all spouting nonsense, you bastards. Do you actually think that Gin-san is like that? Think again."

She took a step forward.

"Shin-chan and Kagura-chan look up to him. He is important to them. And what's important to them is important to me as well. That's the main reason why I'm here."

She started walking towards them, with the latter starting to quiver in fear.

"Gin-san may be a heartless bastard. Gin-san may be a rotten bastard down to the core. Gin-san might not be the perfect kind of guy, but I am certain of one thing—he's certainly a good man."

As soon as she said that, memories of the times she had spent together with the aforementioned silver-haired samurai flooded into her mind. True, he is a lazy, good-for-nothing guy and nothing good will probably come out by hanging out with him. But despite that fact, despite knowing that, people still flock to him, people naturally approach him like flies that she at times cannot help but wonder what sort of charisma that guy has that he's able to charm people around him like this.

Heck, he even managed to charm her own brother on the very same day that they had met!

Indeed, that guy is a total mess. But she knew what people can see in him. She knew what her brother can see in him. She can see it as well. That is why… she won't allow anyone to taint his name just like this.

"For me, and to everyone else out there who has been protected by him, Gin-san is important, and we will protect him at all costs."

Her tone carried a hint of her resolve and sincerity. In fact, she had said it with such sincerity that the people who had noticed this even saw how serious she was when she said that.

"Why… why are you going so far just for the sake of that man…? Why are you willing to put your lives on the line just for him?"

Tae, much to their surprise, gave them a smile—a very sincere smile, at that.

"It's obvious. He's the most selfless man I've ever met… that is, when it counts."

XOXOXOX

"Move out of the way. I won't allow you to take a step closer from here. No matter what you do, it's useless; you won't find the one you're seeking for in there."

On another street on the way to Snack Otose stood Yagyuu Kyuubei, the sole heir to the prestigious Yagyuu-ke. Behind her is her most loyal lackey, Toujou Ayumu, as well as the rest of the Yagyuu clan.

Just like in the other streets near Snack Otose, the roju's supporters have confronted them about Gintoki. They tried to pass their way through and break away from the Yagyuu clan's forces, but to no avail. They weren't even able to put a scratch on them.

They were frustrated, perhaps. Kyuubei can understand what they felt, if her impressions of them proved to be right. They are loyal to the roju and will do everything for him—she knew all of that too well. After all, she is loyal to a certain someone and will probably wreak havoc if something bad ever happened to her.

However, she had to set her priorities straight. And for her, what's important to Tae-chan is important to her as well. Since the man, Sakata Gintoki, is important to the young brunette, she will do everything in her power to protect that man, even though it meant that it might also put a smear on her name.

"You're the ones who should move out of the way," said one of the roju's supporters. "No matter what happens, we will seek justice for what happened to Masayasu-sama. And besides, that guy is probably a loser anyway, so what good will you guys achieve by protecting him?"

Kyuubei cannot help but be irritated by what that guy had said about Gintoki. True, he was a loser in so many ways, but he has definitely earned the respect that he deserves. At least, in her own book, Sakata Gintoki was not a loser. She was about to say that to the guy, but much to her surprise, Toujou had beaten her on it.

"You guys shouldn't be saying such things," said Toujou Ayumu with a straight face, which surprised the young Yagyuu. "Gintoki-dono is a better man than what any of you have concluded."

Such a statement coming from the guy who only kept on talking about shower curtains and Lolita dresses brought a smile on her face, as she definitely didn't expect such a thing from him. "It's true," she then said, "I believe that Gintoki is not capable of doing such things—he held such a high sense of honor that it's even unthinkable that he'll do that."

Toujou was teary-eyed as he continued to stare at his master in awe. "Young master…"

"And besides, Tae-chan's trust in him only proves that he was certainly worth protecting. Because of that, I am willing to risk anything just so I could clear his name."

XOXOXOX

Sarutobi Ayame felt extremely exhausted. Unlike the other supporters of the roju who were faced by both Tae and Kyuubei earlier, hers were much tougher than she'd thought. And since the guys can fight decently, she knew that they're not your ordinary guys at all—they're probably vigilantes, heck, they might even be members of the Sonjouroushi or even former Jouishishi, she'll never know. All that she knew right now was that she needed backup as fast as she could. Ten people against one is too much for her to handle, especially if the people are almost at the same level as she was, after all.

"Dammit, why did this kind of thing only happen to me?" she muttered to herself, anxious and pissed off at her uselessness. Usually, fights of this level were a piece of cake, but now she's having a hard time with it. Her skills are becoming rusty, perhaps. But why? Was it a side effect of stalking Gin-san? Was it because she'd rather spend more time on following Gin-san around rather than doing her actual job of assassination?

Rather than assassinating random thugs, I'd rather assassinate Gin-san's heart, she decided.

But now wasn't the time for that. She's becoming really distracted.

Perhaps, is this the so-called 'Gin-san Withdrawal'? She missed him so much. Given the fact that he went after that kunoichi bitch named Tsukki, she probably must've used love potions on him or something. But anyway, she'll let it slide for now, since she'll give her own love to Gin-san tenfold once he sets foot back to Kabuki-chou.

Ah, I really miss Gin-san—

"Sacchan! Look out!"

Distracted and seemingly lost in her thoughts filled with Sakata Gintoki, Sacchan was surprised that she was about to be attacked with a katana when someone had suddenly shouted her name. Opening her eyes and staring at the spectacle in front of her, she was surprised to find two older men on her side, blocking the attack that was supposed to hit her.

"Y-You guys are…"

The two guys smiled at her, and at that instance, Sacchan felt a little teary-eyed. She thought that she would never see them again (Sorachi might've probably forgotten about them) but there they were, in front of her, grinning ear to ear, obviously happy about their reunion.

"Sacchan, how have you been? It's been so long since the last time we've met, isn't it?"

"That man—Gin-san was it?—had gotten into some trouble, isn't he? So, how is it? Have you managed to capture his heart?"

The two men kept on asking her questions, but she did not pay attention to it as her mind had suddenly turned blank. She was speechless. When was the last time she had ever seen those two? As far as she can remember, the last time she had ever seen them was when she was tasked to assassinate Nezumiya and they were both taken captive in the process, and it was at that time when she had met Gin-san. Indeed, it's been so long that the author bets that no one can remember them anymore.

Sacchan cannot help but to curl her lips into a smile. "W-What are you doing here..? Idiots… that's really stupid of you guys…"

"Oi, oi, is that what the infamous Shimatsuya Sacchan should say? You're still our boss, so no matter what happens, we'll help you out," said one of them, into which the other one responded with a nod. And at this, Sacchan felt better, and her resolve slowly came back.

She proceeded into her fighting stance, her kunais taking refuge on both of her hands, and stood beside her former comrades in the Oniwabanshuu.

It was then when someone threw a kunai right in front of them.

"Ah, my bad. You see, I'm busy reading my JUMP right here so I'm really surprised that there is some kind of an Oniwaban get-together. Not that I'm really interested or anything, but—"

The suspicious guy, with bushy hair and a hair color akin to that of a chestnut, leapt right in front of them and got on his feet quickly, as expected of a highly-trained ninja. His eyes were as fierce as ever, even though she knew that no one has ever seen it, given the fact that it was always hidden by his hair. Not that it matters though, since she can't see it either if she didn't have her glasses.

Sacchan clicked her tongue. "What are you doing here, Hattori Zenzou?"

The two guys behind Sacchan were surprised as well. One of them even asked, "Why are you here? Do you also intend to protect that man?"

Hattori laughed at this, which confused the other two. Sacchan, on the other hand, was rather indifferent.

"Not really. Actually, I really don't know much of the details, but it seems that everywhere I go, there's some kind of fighting going on over that guy," he replied with a smirk. "So I guess there's no more escaping it. And since it's that way, then I guess it's better to go with the flow and fight as well. Coz seriously, I can't even read my JUMP in peace with all the ruckus going on. So the faster this is resolved, then the faster that I'll be able to read my JUMP in peace. I still have to read what happens between Rito-kun and Lala anyway."

"But isn't To-LOVE-ru running in SQ? It has become 'Darkness' right now, you know!"

Hattori did not budge at this and only threw a kunai towards the guy who had said that. "I also can't wait what happens to Raku. That guy, he's been stringing both Chitoge and Onodera on his fingers.."

"I bet Marika is the promised childhood friend!"

"No, it is obviously Tsugumi!"

"It's Onodera, you idiot!"

"Shut up! I'm rooting for Kirisaki Chitoge!" exclaimed Hattori. He then closed his JUMP and looked at the three, feeling proud of his JUMP-lover status. "I don't mind rooting for Erina and Tadokoro-chan as well, though I bet tosh's art is just perfect for ecchi, and—"

"It's not tosh, it's Saeki Shun-sensei! And aren't Erina and Tadokoro Megumi from another JUMP series?!"

"Shut up! Anyway, I bet that Gintoki doesn't even know about the existence of the red hat and the presence of ESP among the Kasuga family, so until I've proven that I'm superior, I'm not gonna let anyone postpone our fight—"

"Oiiiiiiiiiiiiii! No one here can get that reference anymore! That is way too retro! It's like saying that Urusei Yatsura is your gateway to anime! Stop being so whimsical, since we aren't going to the Orange Road anyway!"

Baffled at what just occurred right in front of them, the vigilantes were getting increasingly irritated as they just wanted to get this over with and move on. Unable to take it any longer, one of them pointed at Hattori and called his attention.

"Oi! That Sakata Gintoki isn't someone important to you anyway, so could you move out of the way? We have no time to waste for the likes of you!"

Hattori was annoyed at this but did not let it show. "Oi, what are you even saying? That guy is an old bud of mine, ya know? He's my JUMP buddy." He inwardly cringed at his own words. "We even went through a lot of things together!"

"You're just making things up! Don't you just care about your JUMP?!"

"I do," replied Hattori. "In fact, I and Gintoki are buddies, and we even went to clubs together…

And right at that moment, Hattori remembered about that time when he and Gintoki went to a club… full of fugly women.

'Oi! I don't remember agreeing with you to bring me to a place like this! This is more like a horror house than a club! Are you planning to scar me for life?!'

"—is what he said, but I know that he's just being tsundere. Later on, I found out from one of my ladies that the guy had already gone to a love hotel and was already getting too cozy with her."

"Wait a second!" exclaimed Sacchan, attacking Hattori on the eyes with chopsticks full of natto from who-knows-where. "I bet your memory is at fault, Hattori-san. As far as I'm concerned, Gin-san only goes to a love hotel…. together with me!"

The two Oniwabanshuu behind her only shouted, "No, that's not it either!"

But Sacchan did not take heed of it, as expected. She continued on fantasizing about Gintoki, and even made a perverted-looking face as she tried to recall her 'memories'.

"That's right. The person that Gin-san goes with into a love hotel is no other than me, Sacchan! Ah, Gin-san~ I remember when he pushed (kicked) me towards the bed and went away for a shower, ah, he was just so—"

And right at that moment, memories of her sneaking into the bathroom to peek at him resurfaced into her mind. She was disappointed that the room was sealed shut that she was unable to see anything from the steam, but as soon as she saw his clothes in the corner, she didn't even think twice and tried it on.

'Ah, it's so big and loose!' she exclaimed, sniffing the clothes in order to smell Gin-san. The clothes were still warm, and it still had his body heat. And in a pile of clothes on the floor, she found his precious strawberry boxers and without a second thought, she picked it up and—

"OIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII! Stop that nonsense!" exclaimed their enemies, who were quite visibly pissed off on what just happened. "We don't need your friggin' flashbacks, as all that we've gotten from those was that Sakata Gintoki is just a rotten horny bastard and—"

The guy who said that was unable to continue what he was saying as he found himself unconscious, being struck on the head with a kunai. The others found themselves under the same fate a few seconds later.

Sacchan had just beaten all their enemies into a pulp. Alone.

"I'll never forgive anyone who sullies Gin-san's name. He… he isn't like that at all. That man… he's really important to me."

She clenched her fists and adjusted her glasses, and gave them a proud look.

"It's because Gin-san is the S to my M."

XOXOXOX

"Now do you get it?" asked Tae as she tightened her hold on her naginata and inched closer to the other party. "All your efforts are useless. That's why, as much as possible, I advise you to leave."

And as soon as she said that, people throughout Kabuki-chou appeared behind her—such as Hasegawa Taizou and Kishin Mademoiselle Saigou, among others—and defended Gintoki. Knowing that they are outnumbered and they couldn't possibly win against all that people, the roju's supporters started to retreat one by one, running for their lives.

"I repeat: leave Kabuki-chou at once. You won't find what you're seeking for in here. And I won't let you take a step from here either. No matter what happens, no matter how much you frame Gin-san on such matters, you'll never sever the bonds he'd made with us."

They were unable to do anything in front of Shimura Tae, as she stood there in full glory with a naginata on her hand.

"Get your asses off my territory. Anyone who messes with the queen of Kabuki-chou… will surely be punished."

XOXOXOX

Kintoki stared at the spectacle before him, and was speechless at the events that occurred just now. Indeed, Tama was right. He cannot deny that, especially with what he'd witnessed.

"Have you given it some thought?" asked Tama, who now stood next to him. "Are you willing to do it now, Sakata Kintoki?"

The golden-haired robot did not say a word. He continued on staring at the vast space outside the clear glass wall, and watched the citizens of Edo as they went on with their lives.

Tama took this positively and inched herself closer to the wall, tracing her fingers against it. "I'm sure that you've seen it already—everything. No matter where Gintoki-sama goes, even if everyone may turn against him, even if everyone forgets about him, even if he's the only one left in this world, no matter how hard it is, he'll still value everyone, he'll still protect everyone—and that is the reason why his silver light can never be extinguished. Gintoki-sama is the silver light that covers Kabuki-chou and Edo as a whole. You've already learned this the hard way back then, didn't you?"

Kintoki smirked at the notion. Indeed, he did learn it the hard way, there's no escaping that fact.

"The silver light won't be there forever. I hope you understand that," he said, into which Tama replied with a nod. "There will always be gold against the silver. And one day, everything will be colored into gold. But I understand. I'll let you guys off this time."

And amid Tama's declarations of gratitude, Sakata Kintoki started on what he was supposed to do there right at that moment—his memory modification on all the citizens of Edo.

XOXOXOX

"What did you just say, Tsukuyo-dono? You mean the place where that Uehara Zennosuke was hiding was just there, right under our noses?"

Tsukuyo responded with a nod to that sudden question made by the Nobleman of Fury, Katsura Kotarou. She had just told both Gintoki and Katsura about the fact that she had found where Uehara was, and as expected, both were flabbergasted by this fact. They were now inside a transport vehicle headed towards the village where they were staying, and they left in a hurry as soon as they heard that announcement about the presence of an intruder inside the quarters.

Only an hour had passed ever since they left the Sonjouroushi headquarters, and just a little bit more than an hour ever since that incident that happened between her and Gintoki. She still cannot forget that Gintoki had accused her of dating Katsura, and thus she took a peek at the silver-haired Yorozuya while she was talking with the other guy.

And as soon as she saw his indifferent expression, she clicked her tongue in irritation. Didn't he even remember what happened earlier? Was it nothing and I'm just the only one making a big deal out of this?

"Tsukuyo-dono..?"

With Katsura's inquiries bringing her back to her senses, Tsukuyo tried to convince herself that now wasn't the right time to think about the reasons behind Gintoki's odd behavior earlier. Right now, she decided to concentrate on the fact that they had just made a step forward towards their goal, and that's what she should think about right now, Gintoki be damned.

"I am not sure if that's where Uehara was hiding, but there's no denying the fact that I've found him there. However, I think that my presence was discovered, since as soon as I've confirmed that it was him, an alarm about the presence of an intruder got out."

"This is bad," grunted Katsura. "Now that they are aware of our presence, I am positive that they're expecting our attack sooner or later. It might be difficult for us to find his whereabouts in case he goes into hiding again." He then looked at Gintoki, who was currently picking his nose with his pinky. "What do you think, Gintoki? What should we do?"

"Don't ask me, I don't know anything about tactical planning," he replied as he flicked the booger on his finger towards Katsura. "Well, we can always do a surprise attack on them tomorrow, if you ask me."

"Hmph, I guess that's to be expected of you, Gintoki. You sure are reckless."

"Heh, at least I have the delicacy of telling the truth, Zura. Unlike you and Tsukki who kept on hiding things from me.."

"It's not Zura, it's Katsura!" He raised an eyebrow at the notion. "And what are you talking about, Gintoki?"

The Yorozuya averted his gaze and looked somewhere else. "Nothing much. Don't mind it."

Despite the obvious comment from Gintoki, Tsukuyo paid no attention to it as she tried to figure out how she'll tell Gintoki and Katsura about the presence of that so-called Takasugi. Being the leader of the Hyakka, she was completely aware of the existence of the legendary leader of the Kiheitai, Takasugi Shinsuke. Gintoki himself also confirmed not too long ago about his connections with that guy. And thus, that fact only made it harder for her to tell them about this. She didn't know what exactly their relationship was as of now, but she can feel that it wasn't all that pleasant.

But she had to tell them eventually. She just have to find the right timing.

She grumbled to herself. Ah, I've had enough. I'll tell them about this—

"Tsukuyo-dono? What's the matter?"

Katsura's voice brought her back once again to her senses, as she realized that she had become lost-in-thought a lot of times as of late. Much to her surprise, he inched himself closer to her in worry, and even brought his hand to her forehead in order to check if she has a fever. Remembering Gintoki's earlier accusations, she looked at him at the corner of her eye, only to be disappointed as he looked completely indifferent, and only stared at her with his dead fish eyes.

That guy… why is he acting like that..?

Heaving a deep sigh, Tsukuyo resigned to herself and took the gamble. "Actually, I have one more thing to tell you guys," she trailed off, her tone decreasing in volume by the second. "I've also heard that your comrade, Takasugi Shinsuke, was there as well."

As soon as they've heard that name, both Gintoki and Katsura let out a surprised expression.

"Takasugi is not my comrade," growled Gintoki. "Don't lump us together with that guy."

"Takasugi? Why am I not surprised..?" said Katsura, as a serious atmosphere started to loom about the whole area, making Tsukuyo uncomfortable. "I should've known. The Sonjouroushi was just an unknown faction as of late, and for them to rise in power at such a short span of time is just impossible… unless they had the support of some powerful guys. That explains it."

"If we go on with that trail of thought, this might also mean that there is a huge possibility that the Kiheitai and the Sonjouroushi are behind the death of the roju," proposed Tsukuyo. "Or better yet, we can say that the Sonjouroushi are under orders from the Kiheitai, although it's too early to be making that kind of conclusion." She turned to face the silver-haired samurai in front of her. "What do you think, Gintoki?"

He had a serious expression on his face, but did not say another word aside from, "I don't know. It can be like what you've said, most likely. We're talking about Takasugi here, after all."

"Actually, I've heard Takasugi having a conversation with Uehara. They're even talking about something related to the assassination of the Shogun."

"Shogun, huh?" trailed off Gintoki, amused. "I guess the roju wasn't enough for them at all."

Katsura chuckled at this. "We're talking about Takasugi here, after all. That's to be expected."

And as if reading the suffocating mood between the three of them, the vehicle that they are riding on suddenly stopped, which meant that they have finally arrived at the village. Zura then excused himself and told the two to stay there for a little while as he still had something to check out—which of course made the atmosphere between the two of them even more awkward and suffocating.

Tsukuyo and Gintoki only stared outside in silence, and did not even try to make eye contact. That incident that happened earlier still fresh on their minds, they waited for the other to make the first move—that is, to be the first one to initiate a conversation—but nothing of the sort happened. They continued on staring outside the window as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, and did not even do anything that may break the status quo.

Right after Gintoki hugged her tightly from behind, he left in silence without saying a word, much to her confusion. When she tried to go after him and talk to him, he would not even respond, or would either dodge the question or talk as if something like that never happened between them.

Needless to say, she was getting tired of this. She wanted the comfortable and soothing closeness that they have to be back. This kind of awkwardness between the two of them is unwelcomed, and she will do everything just to make things between the two of them return to what it was. But first… why is Gintoki so unresponsive?

Steeling her resolve, she took a glance at Gintoki, only to find out that he was staring at her as well.

To put it simply, their eyes have met.

And just like what she expected, Gintoki tried to avoid this increasing awkwardness between them by giving her yet another one of his awkward-looking smiles as he said that he'll be going first. She tried to call out to him, but he was already out of her sight when she decided to do that. She sighed in exasperation.

Why is he being so difficult? She just couldn't understand any of his actions as of late, and even though she wanted to fix everything, he just kept on dodging the subject. But it's not like he himself isn't doing anything to fix this mess. He tried his hardest to act like nothing ever happened in an attempt to bring back the comfortable atmosphere that they have whenever they're together, but somehow despite all his efforts everything still doesn't seem right.

To be precise, he'd been acting as if absolutely nothing ever happened and it pissed her off, big time. He'd been acting too indifferent as if that incident that happened earlier was nothing at all, but damn it, it wasn't nothing to her! It was something big, and the fact that he was treating it as if it wasn't important at all infuriated her!

She grumbled in frustration. "Ah, damn it… why do I feel like this…?"

She took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind from any distractions. Indeed, this was really unlikely of her to be like this, but she just couldn't help it. That act made by Gintoki surprised her so much, and yet she was making such a big deal out of it. It's probably nothing for him, and thus he acted as if nothing really happened. If that's the case, then she understood. She should also treat it as nothing, actually.

But she couldn't. She can't do it. She's having a hard time doing so. And the biggest question is: Why couldn't she do it?

If such a thing happened before she had met Gintoki, she would probably beat up the guy and treat it off as a perverted act. If something like this was done by someone else, she would have probably unleashed hell upon him. But since it was done by Gintoki, it mattered so much to her. But why? Why does it have to matter? Did she expect something else to happen? Did she want him to be affected by this as well?

She did. She wanted him to be affected by this. That's why it pissed her off so much that he was acting as if something like that wasn't important.

Feeling exhausted, she closed her eyes and sighed, and leaned her head against the window. She can still remember it clearly. The way his breath had tickled her skin, the warmth of his every touch, his intoxicating manly scent, the way he had held her in his arms, which was both tight and gentle and that she could not help but to—

"Aaaaaah, what the hell is wrong with me?! Why the hell am I acting like a maiden on the brink of her first love? This is so not happening!"

And with that, she slapped herself on the face, hoping that these disgusting girly thoughts will go away. She'd stopped being a woman a long time ago. She won't break her resolve just because of some good-for-nothing guy. She's not in love with him at all!

..Well, she does see him that way. Just a little bit. A tiny little bit. But it doesn't mean that she'll go back into being a woman just for him! No way!

"Ah, onee-san! Why haven't you come down? The food is ready!"

That voice startling her out of her thoughts, Tsukuyo looked behind her and saw Chiyo, the young girl which she had saved a few days ago. She was beaming happily at her, and she felt a little bit better at this.

"Thanks, Chiyo. I'll be going down soon, just wait for me," she replied.

The young girl nodded in agreement and went up the vehicle, much to Tsukuyo's surprise.

"C-Chiyo..? Why did you—"

"Onee-san, you and Gin-oniisan are lovers, aren't you?" she asked innocently, and the Shinigami Tayuu grimaced on how that girl easily said 'lovers' without even a hint of hesitation. Being his girlfriend would already bring her a lot of embarrassment, but to be even called as his lover is a little bit—

"C-Chiyo-chan, i-it isn't like that at all. You see, Gintoki and I are—"

"But okaa-san said that you were!" the girl protested. "Okaa-san said that you and Gin-oniisan even slept into the same room yesterday, and did things that are usually done in Yoshiwara!"

Tsukuyo turned a deep shade of red at the mention of this. "What the hell are you trying to imply?! Dammit, Gintoki and I aren't like that! And your mom must've been mistaken!" she exclaimed in extreme embarrassment. They weren't really hiding it, but she didn't expect that the fact that they have accidentally slept in the same room would be known by people outside. How can she even let her face be shown now? "Although I'm amused that you know about Yoshiwara. I'm from there, you wanna try going there?"

"Nuh-uh. But onee-san, if you and Gin-oniisan aren't lovers, then what are you?"

She did not know how to respond to such a question. In fact, she herself did not know what she really was to Gintoki, and heck, even she did not know what Gintoki was to her!

"T-That question is a little bit hard to answer," replied Tsukuyo, not knowing what to reply. "I guess... we are friends, comrades… we share the same goals and such…"

"But the two of you aren't acting like friends, onee-san," said Chiyo, which made the kunoichi completely speechless. "You two act like an old married couple. You even call him by his first name without any honorifics, and he does the same to you. Okaa-san said that yobisute is a proof of your closeness with a person!"

Tsukuyo gave an awkward chuckle. True, she and Gintoki both refer to each other by their first names, but that doesn't really mean anything. Or does it?

"T-That's just your imagination, there's nothing of such sort. There's nothing between me and Gintoki."

"Is that so…? But I hope you two become as such. Chiyo really likes the both of you!" she exclaimed, and much to Tsukuyo's surprise, had even given her a hug. "You know, Gin-oniisan acts like he does not want to play with me, but he actually plays with me a lot! I really like him!"

Faced with such a statement, Tsukuyo cannot help but to let out a smile. She knew that Gintoki was good with children and people naturally flock to him, as seen with the presence of both Shinpachi and Kagura, but for a child as young and innocent as her to take a liking to him in such a short time… that was really surprising.

Her smile never faltering, Chiyo then went down the vehicle and bid Tsukuyo goodbye, that the latter cannot help but to notice how cute the young girl was. It was roughly a few days since the first time she had ever met the girl, and the look she had before as compared to now was completely different.

"Onee-san! Don't forget to think about what I've said to you okay?" shouted Chiyo from afar, and Tsukuyo chuckled at this.

She sighed.

"What you've said to me… huh? W-What is this feeling, I wonder? Am I… am I really… Am I really in love with him?"

Shaking such thoughts out of her mind, she decided to cool off her head for a minute and went down the vehicle, opting to walk around for some fresh air. And as if her feet had a mind of its own, she went towards the direction of the nearby river downtown.

And right at that moment, memories of Gintoki ran across her mind.

She remembered the way they had first met. He acted all cool in order to save Seita, but if it weren't for her follow-ups, then he would've lost face right there and then. He kept on telling her how much of a good person she was, but seriously, she's just doing what she's gotta do.

She remembered the first promise she had ever made with him. He promised her the sun and the freedom that they've always wished for and even took her kiseru as a collateral, but he still made it. He fulfilled his promise.

She remembered the first time he had ever protected her. He took Housen's attack that was supposed to be for her, and right at that moment, she knew that she had finally found someone whom she can trust, whom she can finally lean on. She knew that he will watch her back, and in turn, she will watch his.

She remembered how he brought back the sun to Yoshiwara. Caged like a bird under the rule of Housen, her people had always wanted to see it. Even she herself wasn't all that familiar with its warm, soothing light. But thanks to him, she can finally see how beautiful it was. The days of the never-ending moonlight were finally over.

She remembered how he groped her breasts when she was trying to prove herself to him that she was a woman no more. Before that, she had always thought that something like that wouldn't affect her, but she was terribly wrong.

She remembered how they were left with no choice but to act like a married couple when they went to infiltrate the Benigumoto. She even went along with the Dia and Block joke that he'd made, though the other members still ended up being skewered by her kunai anyway.

She remembered how she declared that his presence weakens her resolve. She was really serious when she said that, but he had brushed it off as nothing and stayed in order to protect her.

She remembered how he suffered and got beaten up by her shishou. Her heart broke since she thought that she'll never see him again, but as usual, he had proven her wrong as he managed to reappear a few hours later.

She remembered how he had saved her from the hands of her master, Jiraia. He held her gently in his arms as he freed her from the spider's web, and even told her something she'll never forget. He told her that she can cry to him whenever she got problems, and he'll do the same—and never had anyone said such a thing to her.

She remembered how she had beaten the hell out of him on her drunken stupor back when Hinowa had set her up with him inside the zashiki. He was trembling and was doing everything that he can in order to escape her wrath, but he was still unable to do a thing.

She remembered how he told her that she was beautiful and had a beautiful soul. Those words brought her out of her depression, and at that moment, she realized that she had started to see that silver-haired guy in an entirely new light.

She remembered how depressed she was when she learned that he was already married to Sarutobi. Hinowa and Seita kept on teasing her about the subject, though she cannot deny the happiness that she'd felt when she learned that those pictures turned out to be fake.

She remembered the times which she had spent together with his friends. Thanks to him, she was able to know a lot of people. Those things that happened during Valentines, the Patriot Factory, how she acted as if she was a part of his harem, how she got involved with the Diamond Perfume, when she made a visit to Takahamagara, and many more—if it weren't for him, those great memories wouldn't even exist.

She remembered how she cried for him back when her memories were modified by an impostor. Even though she did not remember who he was, she knew that her heart still remembered him completely.

She remembered how worried she was when she had seen him being shot by that Mimawarigumi bastard. Her mind full of worry for him, she was about to be struck down if it weren't for his timely interruption.

She remembered the night when Hinowa and Suzuran had told her about the promise that the latter had made. Suzuran told her that 'good men always keep their promises' and his face immediately came to her mind, much to her surprise.

She remembered how she realized that he would really make a good woman once he changed genders. His charm was so irresistible that even she could not help but to act flirty with her, even though she also turned into a handsome man herself.

She remembered the times when the both of them had their nightly chats when she was still staying at the Yorozuya. She realized that she looked forward to it every night, and even she felt as if the distance between them was slowly decreasing bit by bit.

She remembered how helpless she felt when she witnessed the three Yorozuya argue with each other. She knew how important those two were to him, and it hurt her so much to see him so down.

She remembered when she followed him to Hagi and even had an argument with him. She did all those things out of impulse and she did not even think of the consequences, and yet he came back and even reached out his hand to her amid the falling rain.

She remembered the feeling of being covered by his warm embrace as they slept in the same futon. He even took care of her right after she had gotten sick, and she felt as if she saw a part of him which could not be seen by anyone else.

She remembered how he saved her from a near-death experience. They even shared his kimono and even used it as a blanket, and right at that moment, she knew that she was extremely happy to see him again.

And now… he did that thing from earlier. She knew that she shouldn't really think much about that, since it was just a freakin' hug, but somehow, what he did felt really different.

She might sound really ridiculous, but she felt as if he was trying to convey his emotions into that simple gesture. He held her gently as if she was some kind of fragile glass that would break if not handled well, and he also held her so tight as if he had no intentions of letting her go. He felt as if he was extremely possessive of her, even.

But aside from all of that, she felt as if she was really important to him, even for a short little while. And because she felt the same for him, such an action is a big deal for her.

She won't deny it. He is important to her. Never had a man ever made her feel like this. Never had anyone outside Hinowa and Seita mattered to her like this. He appeared to her like a flash of lightning, making his appearance in a short notice, and yet he blew her away, he took all of her attention, introduced her to a lot of things, made her experience a lot of things which she had never experienced before, made her feel a lot of emotion which she had never felt before.

He gave her the freedom which she never had before.

He was the only one who could make her feel protected, and he's the only one whom she trust to watch her back.

He was the sole one that made her feel better for being herself, and the only one who reached a hand out to her when she was feeling lost and weary.

And if she were to lose him, she'll probably lose herself completely as well.

Is this what they call love? Do all of these things mean that she loves him? In fact, she's not even sure of it herself. She knows that she values him a whole lot, but she isn't even sure if it's supposed to be taken in a romantic sense. Was it really like that?

Much to her surprise, fate just knew how to play with her as she found herself staring at the object of her affections—Sakata Gintoki. He was sitting by the riverbank by himself, watching the sunset in its full glory, the orange hue making his handsome features even more distinguished.

She only had her mouth agape as she stared at the scene before her. She did not even dare to say a word, and she did not have any plans on revealing herself. As of now, she's contented by watching him from afar.

Right at that moment, she realized that she couldn't deny it anymore.

She's in love with him. She's in love with that silver-haired, penniless idiot named Sakata Gintoki.

And she probably loved him for a long time now, and it only took her now to finally admit it to herself.

『つづく


Notes:

Nezumiya – that rat-like Amanto that appeared during Sacchan's introductory episode.

Rito – Yuuki Rito, the protagonist from To-LOVE-ru.

Lala – Lala Deviluke, a character from To-LOVE-ru.

SQ – Jump SQ (Jump Square), a monthly shounen magazine published by Shueisha.

Darkness – a reference to To-LOVE-ru Darkness, the sequel to the original series that now runs on SQ.

Raku – Ichijou Raku, the protagonist of the ongoing love comedy JUMP manga, Nisekoi.

Kirisaki Chitoge, Onodera, Marika, Tsugumi – the female leads in Nisekoi.

Erina, Tadokoro Megumi – female characters from the ongoing cooking JUMP manga, Shokugeki no Souma.

Tosh / Saeki Shun – a hentai manga artist under the name tosh who now works as the artist for Shokugeki no Souma under the name Saeki Shun.

"I bet that Gintoki doesn't even know about the existence of the red hat and the presence of ESP among the Kasuga family." – a reference to Kimagure Orange Road, a romantic comedy series from the 80's that ran in Shounen Jump. The red hat refers to the same red hat worn by Ayukawa Madoka when she had first met the protagonist, Kasuga Kyousuke. The Kasuga family, by the way, are espers.

Urusei Yatsura – a very popular manga and anime series by Rumiko Takahashi which ran in Weekly Shounen Sunday from 1979 till mid-80's. Well, I could've used Takahashi's other work, Ranma 1/2, as the one in the reference, but I've decided to use this instead since it's much older, even though the year of Kimagure Orange Road's publication is closer to Ranma.

Whimsical – whimsical is the direct translation of "kimagure", which is also a reference to Kimagure Orange Road.

Orange Road – a Kimagure Orange Road reference, obviously.

Lovers and girlfriend part in Tsukuyo and Chiyo's conversation – What I really wanna express here is that if it's in Japanese, then it will be aijin and koibito, respectively. Both words have love in their meaning but with a slight difference. Koibito is boyfriend / girlfriend, whereas aijin literally means a lover. Koibito may or may not have any sexual connotation, while aijin (which is closer to having an affair with someone, though it might also be used when referring to your wife / husband) has a sexual connotation. So yeah, you now know what I mean.

Yobisute – the act of addressing someone without an honorific title (-san, -sama, etc.) and may be considered rude even in the most informal and friendly occasions. Well, it can also be said that one can measure how close people are to one another if they call them by their first names, since Japanese usually refer to people by their surnames. People who call each other by their first names without any honorific can also be taken as proof on how close they are with each other.


More Author's Notes:

Okay, I know that I'm really late and I'm so sorry, I'm really sorry! In fact, in order to make it up to you guys, I've made this 12,000-word monster and squeezed it behind my overly busy schedule. October is the end of the semester for me you see, and hence I need to do a lot of school-related things. I hope you guys understand. College life is never easy. OTL

And whoa, this chapter is really corny… *cries* Please tell me your thoughts about this chapter! I really wanna hear it! Did I make the progress too fast? Should've I just made the two of them kiss instead? I thought of that too, but I think Gintoki will be even more OOC if that happens. And besides, a hug like that, especially in historical Japan, had a lot of connotations already! (Heck, even holding one's hand can be considered extremely romantic back then! Kissing is too much for them folks! XD)

Okay, that does it now… see you again next month! And early warning since I might update late again by March – April next year coz you know, end of the semester, graduation, job hunting, et cetera, et cetera.

Next Chapter: "A lot of people tend to be dense when it comes to matters concerning love."