First Authors Note

Hi guys! Before anything else I would like to point out that this is not my story! I have had no part in the writing of this incredible story. I don't know the authors name, and I don't know how old it is, BUT I do know that I found it on a site named rkdreams which is now unavailable. But luckily for me I downloaded it to my computer.

And the reason I am posting this is because it is just too good to not be posted. It is my absolute favorite story, and I hope some of you will find the same pleasure reading this story that I did. And from this point on, EVERYTHING is copy/pasted from the original site, even the future author notes are not mine, but I want to include them for the sake of whoever wrote them originally. I will try to upload at least once a week. There is nothing better in this world than an author with regular updates and complete stories(though sadly I am not one of them)! Bless them!

So, here goes, enjoy!


Author Note:

I'm going to be breaking a lot of rules, so those who are sticklers for the conventional, please, for your sakes and mine, do not go on. The contents of this fic will be serious and is meant to get the noggin' going. If, while reading this fic, you get a sudden urge to laugh…ehehe, it would have been intentional on my part, but then, this isn't supposed to be a comedy. Not my usual stuff, but change ought to be a good thing, ne? Major OOCiness here for a particular character. It is INCREDIBLY essential to the story, so this ought to be a fair warning.

I would just like to say that although I will be mentioning a lot of people who actually existed in Meiji Japan, my account of their lives and personalities are all fictional, except for what I say is true and actual in my closing Author's Notes. Please, no one sue me for libel.

Now…let's get it on!

Prologue

THE SPY

I frowned at the tacked-on article on the newspaper I held.

Great…just great! Yasushige bought the farm, like Miyori and Taka did.

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm not exactly talking about purchasing real estate here. I'm talking about biting the dust; throwing in the towel; getting on the one-way express…

Okay, I'll say it plainly! Anenokoji Yasushige is dead.

Apparently, somebody had broken into his house in Tango. A robber, they said. The article reports that all things indicate he had caught them stealing his things. A struggle ensued and he, along with his wife, was killed trying to preserve his property. "Anenokoji, a Japanese family known to be strong supporters of the restoration, were apparently not immune to the evils of society," said a line in the article.

Shit.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

I should have known someone was trying to kill all of us off one by one. I should have known it when they got Taka. Granted, Miyori's and Taka's deaths were a considerable length apart, like a year apart, but I still should have known. And now with Yasushige, his murder being only three months from Taka's…

Nagakura Miyori had died of a disease. That much information I gathered from the local paper's obituary some time back. I knew she lived somewhere in Edo, but I had no intention of making contact with her before or even after she died. Besides, diseases were supposed to be a fact of life, so I did indeed brush it off as nothing more than a natural passing. Taka's death was more sensational, but not very alarming either. The report of his murder had been tacked on, having occurred somewhere in Yanaizu where several gang-related crimes have been occurring. Still, I insisted that there was no big conspiracy going on.

I suppose too much peace has dulled my instincts, or else distorted my sense of reality.

Damn it! Who could blame me for wanting to live a normal life? I mean, hell! What do they want me to do? Go the rest of my life looking over my shoulder? Besides, I never entertained the thought that they even knew we existed.

The Ishinshishi Shinobi Kei Gaikotsu's best feature was its inherent improbability to exist. As far as most people were concerned, including Ishinshishi members themselves, we were just a rumor: A figment of paranoid imaginations.

I was so sure that our tracks were covered so well. Apparently, I was wrong. Not only did someone know the Ishin-SHIKEIGAI existed, they, whoever they are, know who composed it. Now they've killed three out of the six of us. Feh! I don't even know if Kyosuke and Banshio are still alive as I sit here!

Should have I expected this?

My inward groan answered my own question.

Yes, I should have expected this. The enemy in general had never been stupid, which was why the war was a long and hard battle. I found many proofs of this in great degrees during the Bakumatsu. Especially with those damn Shinsengumi. They were the worse bunch of wily wolves ever to crawl out of the mud.

I remember getting the scare of my life when I had been assigned to infiltrate a particular Shinsengumi platoon.

"Oi! Little boy! What are you doing here?"

I froze, the voice behind me striking lightning into my heart. I had my hand resting on a particularly vital document, and to be caught handling it could mean the end of me.

I cursed silently to myself. I should have known that stepping on that dog-doo this morning was a bad omen. I should have taken it as a warning that this would not be my day.

Sweat broke out of my forehead, but I put on my acting face just before I turned to look at the adult standing in the frame of the door.

"Umm…I was just looking for some paper," I said in my best innocent, pleading voice. "I want to write to my mother. I miss my mother."

The cheeks of the adult, whom I now knew was Okena, platoon messenger, turned red in irritation. "Ikiro, you little brat. I don't need a kid missing his mommy right now. There will be no letters."

I started to cry. An act, of course. I was thankful that he had presented an issue that would provide the perfect distraction. "But…but I want to tell her I'm alright! She hasn't heard from me in months! I miss my mother!" More crying. I can go on like this forever, and they wouldn't really think the worse of me. I was a five-year-old, for goodness sake. Children my age always cried about their mommies.

Okena approached me and grabbed my arm, yanking me with him and out of the room. "Idiot! How can you think of sending letters at a time like this? Something as stupid as that could give away our position. Do you want to get the whole platoon killed?"

"I want my mommy!" I screamed, bawling loudly.

"Shut-up!" Okena shouted sternly, dragging me to my room, which was really just a closet with a ratty futon and a small compartment for my things. "Damn! If you don't quit your squalling, I'll have you deposited to the next town and we'll get another serving boy."

I pretended to simmer down and control my sobbing. "Please…don't. I'll *hiccup* stop. Just…"

"Don't make me beat you, boy," Okena warned, pushing me into my room.

I stumbled clumsily to the floor, giving out a rather genuine howl of pain as my knees bumped on the hard floor.

"You said you wanted to help the Shinsengumi, didn't you?"

"Y-Yes, Okena-sama," I said pitifully.

"Well then quit being the little boy that you are and be useful!" Okena yelled, hands to his waist in disdain. "It's going to be dinner in three hours. Be ready in one for kitchen duty. Tenaga is out so you're the only one who's going to cook for all of us."

Feh! I hated cooking for the platoon. Serves me right for letting them know I can do it so well. I just had to show off, didn't I? Well, it was better than being executed at sunset for sneaking out important information. "Yes, Okena-sama." I said respectfully.

Satisfied with my answer, he turned from the door. "Writing to mommy…the idea!" He muttered before leaving me in my closet.

I gave a sigh of relief and wiped the tears from my cheeks with the sleeve of my gi. That damn Okena just loved to power trip. Picking on a kid like me. If he only knew the women laughed at him…apparently, he was terrible in bed. Two-minute Okena, they called him.

One thing about being a kid is that adults talk in my presence indiscriminately, thinking I couldn't understand. This is mainly the reason why I'm such an effective spy. Five others share my fate. Child spies for the Ishinshishi…

And now three of them are dead.

Somebody screwed up big time.

F it!

I threw the newspaper away from me forcefully in my irritation. The draft caught it and sent it flying back to me. I snatched it from the air before it hit my face and crumpled it wildly in my fists, beating it to a pulp.

"Shit!" I cursed again, thumping the mangled paper to the floor. What a farce! I couldn't believe that all those times I had to stand being with those Shinsengumi bastards, contributing my skills to the cause of the restoration, asking only to be kept a secret once the war was over…I even pretended to be a boy for them for crying out loud-!

"Kaoru-dono?"

I froze.