Ken ga Kimi – Kuroba Saneaki

Saneaki’s route is related to Asakura’s conspiracy, and it also drops a hint about Enishi’s background. Kayo’s best friend, Omatsu, is a key person in this route, and I really like how their friendship plays an important part here.

黒羽実彰 (CV:前野智昭)

Saneaki is a highly skilled swordsman from Hizen Province, who’s hiding the fact that he’s actually a Christian. After losing his mother at a young age, Saneaki was taken in by a Dutch merchant and spent his childhood in Hirato. He has a gentle yet secretive personality, as well as a unique atmosphere that makes him hard to read. Due to a certain incident in the past, he has abandoned his sword and is currently living deep in the mountains of Edo. 25 years old.


Tokaido Fake Wedding Parade Arc

Mishima Taisha

Before departing from Mishima, Kayo goes to visit Mishima Taisha with Saneaki. The solemn atmosphere of the shrine stands out even more due to the cold morning air, and it makes her feel tense somehow. He explains that the gods enshrined in Mishima Taisha are known as Mishima Daimyoujin, which is also the name of the vicinity around it. In the past, Minamoto no Yoritomo came here to pray for the Minamoto clan’s revival. His wish really did come true, and a lot of military generals have been coming to Mishima Taisha ever since.

Soon after passing the gate, Kayo finds a pond with a small shrine at the center. Saneaki tells her that it’s known as Shinchi Pond, while the shrine is called Itsukushima Shrine. They can see the shrine’s reflection on the water surface, looking quiet and mysterious among the cherry blossom trees. Itsukushima Shrine is also well-known as the shrine Yoritomo’s wife, Houjou Masako, used to pray at. As they admire the view, Kayo notes that Saneaki has a very vast knowledge. She finds it impressive how he knows a lot of things. Kayo has never left Edo before, and she feels ashamed for not knowing anything. However, Saneaki says it’s simply because he had more chance to see different things. He also tells her that it’s not something to be ashamed of, because one can see things from a pure perspective if they don’t have the knowledge. If she can purely enjoy the pond’s beauty and how majestic the shrine is, it’s actually a good thing.

Just then Kayo notices lovely purple flowers growing by the pond, and Saneaki notes that the violets have started blooming. He then squats down and gently touches their petals, saying that they have a beautiful color. He can feel them healing his heart just by looking at them. When spring comes, the cherry blossoms around the pond will bloom as well—gracing the shrine with an exquisite view. Upon hearing this, Kayo wonders what she’ll be doing by then. Will she return to Edo safely, looking up at the cherry blossoms in spring? She then asks if Saneaki wants to pick the violets, but he refuses—believing that wild flowers are beautiful exactly because they’re growing in the wild. He won’t stop her if she wants to pick them, but she agrees with him and decides to leave the violets alone. She notices that he slightly smiles when she says this, and she can see that he’s truly a kind person.

Saneaki then points out that there’s a purification trough nearby, and he takes Kayo to wash their hands there. While the fresh spring water gives her an earnest desire to pray at the shrine, she has to admit that it’s rather cold. It’ll be tough if she has to perform the purification ceremony, and he nods saying she’ll probably catch a cold if she bathes in this water without wearing anything. Kayo finds the cool sensation nice on her hands though, and she mentions that it can wash one’s impurities away. Saneaki’s expression turns sad the moment he hears this. He quietly wonders if the water can purify someone like him as well, but when she asks if there’s something wrong… he shakes his head saying he was just talking to himself.

Saneaki then changes the subject by asking if their trip to Mishima Taisha provides a nice change of pace for Kayo. She nods saying she feels refreshed thanks to the morning air and cold water, and he answers that he’s glad to see her feeling at ease—which makes her realize that he was worried about her. Kayo is aware that while her only task is to stay protected, Saneaki and the other guards have a lot of issues to worry about. Despite how exhausting it must be for them, they’re still making sure to pay attention to her feelings… so she wants to become stronger for them in return.

When Kayo says that she has to play her role and do what she can, Saneaki nods saying her safe arrival in Sunpu will definitely help everyone. She promises to keep this in mind, and that she’ll arrive at Sunpu safely. Satisfied by Kayo’s spirit, Saneaki answers that he’ll do everything he can to help her reach that goal. Maybe it’s because of the resolution, but she can feel courage filling her up. From there, Saneaki takes Kayo to pray at the shrine—where she wishes for the safety of Mitsuyoshi and the others. By the time she’s done, she opens her eyes to find him praying with a serious expression.

Kayo later asks about what Saneaki was praying for, and he simply says that it’s probably similar to her prayer—giving her the faith that everything will be just fine. They smile at each other after that, and this makes her a bit happy… as she never thought that she’d be able to share a smile with him. The shrine bell soon rings and marks 7 o’clock, so Kayo and Saneaki quickly make their way back to the inn.

VS Mantis Youkai

If Kayo asks everyone to stay calm, Saneaki smiles saying she’s right. Even if they can’t see the youkai, it doesn’t mean they can’t defeat it. He’s going to deal with the youkai, so he asks everyone to go on ahead. Before leaving, Kayo asks Saneaki not to push himself too hard… but he returns those words right back at her. He wants her to listen to the guards and refrain from doing anything reckless, so she obediently nods and asks him to stay safe. As soon as Kayo leaves with everyone else, Saneaki draws his sword and stops the youkai from pursuing them. The youkai tries provoking him by saying that he should have stayed with his friends, but he calmly replies that it’s very nice of the youkai to be so concerned about its opponent.

If possible, Saneaki actually doesn’t want to kill—be it a human or a youkai. He says he’ll let the youkai go if it’s willing to leave them alone, but Habakitsuki soon comes out and asks him to stop saying stupid things. She wants him to kill the youkai already. When Saneaki tells her to shut up, Habakitsuki says she knows that he actually wants to swing his sword so badly. She thinks he should give the youkai a lesson with his strength, then she vanishes after—once again—demanding him to do it. Saneaki knows that his attempt is probably futile though, and it’s proven true when the youkai refuses to leave. It wants Saneaki to beg for mercy if he got scared, though it clearly has zero intentions to leave him alone.

Knowing that words aren’t going to change the youkai’s mind, Saneaki gives up and whispers a prayer. The youkai instantly takes this chance to attack him, but at the same time… this also reveals its presence to him. Upon sensing its killing intent, Saneaki manages to track down the youkai’s location and swings his sword—slicing the youkai into half in an instant. The youkai looks shocked as it gazes up at Saneaki, as if it still hasn’t realized what just happened. He whispers another prayer right after that, but it doesn’t reach the youkai—it’s already dead.

Habakitsuki, on the other hand, is highly amused. She comes out to comment that Saneaki still sliced the youkai into half despite what he said, and he replies that he was simply saving it from unnecessary pain. She thinks he’s just using the right words to put it smoothly, though she’d be 100% satisfied if he slices beautiful humans instead of youkai. He said this will be his last time using his sword, but she thinks it’s impossible after all… especially now that he just used it to kill a youkai. Upon hearing this, Saneaki yells at Habakitsuki to shut up and swings his sword towards her. This seems to surprise her, and she vanishes again while grumbling about how scary he is.

After a brief silence, Saneaki whispers that he really wants to protect Kayo and the people around him… but while his feeling is sincere, he wonders if he’s only using it as an excuse. Realizing that he’s about to drown in thoughts, he quickly pulls himself out of it and goes to chase after everyone else.

When Saneaki catches up, Kayo feels incredibly relieved to see him safe—so much that she gets off the horse just to welcome him back. He apologizes for keeping them waiting, but Kei says they didn’t really wait. If anything, he took care of the youkai really fast. Noticing that Kayo looks pale, Saneaki touches her cheeks and asks if she’s okay. He gets worried since her skin has turned cold, but before he can look for a coat for her… Enishi interrupts saying he’s got it all wrong. It’s obviously because she was worried about him, though he seems taken aback to hear this. Saneaki assures Kayo that he’s fine though, and Enishi nods saying Saneaki should be able to win against that youkai easily.

However, Kayo says that no matter how strong a person may be… they’ll still feel pain if they get injured. Upon hearing this, Saneaki smiles saying she’s a kind person—and that he feels grateful for her concern. Kayo turns red as she thinks about how gentle Saneaki’s smile is, but of course he doesn’t get it. Instead, he only says that he’s relieved to see color returning to her face. Enishi is different though, as he quickly interrupts and asks why Kayo is blushing. The thought that she might have fallen in love with Saneaki horrifies him, and he desperately tries to convince her that her imagination is only playing tricks on her. WHAT IMAGINATION!? (((壊゚∀゚)))ァヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャ

Of course Kayo gets flustered and denies this, so Enishi decides to drop the subject—though he definitely regrets not staying behind to fight the youkai. In the end Kei and Sakyou have to stop Enishi from fooling around, and he continues whining as they resume their journey.

Yui Station

During dinner, Kayo feels rather awkward because of how quiet Saneaki is. He doesn’t say a single word, so she can only wonder if he likes their food or not. She tries initiating a conversation by saying that the dishes are really delicious, but he only gives her a brief nod and continues eating in silence. Kayo doesn’t give up though. Since they’re having a meal together, she wants to have a tasteful, sensible conversation with Saneaki. She takes another attempt by mentioning the damage brought by last year’s cold weather, as well as how badly it affected her father’s business. This reminds him that her father owns a restaurant, and he answers that this year’s winter was indeed colder than usual—he can see how hard it must be for people who own food-related business. She also mentions that stocking up became more expensive than before, to which he quietly nods… and the conversation dies again.

The awkward silence leaves Kayo with no choice but to give up and eat her dinner. For a while, only the sound of chopsticks is echoing in the room. She eventually tries again by asking if Saneaki took care of the bandits in Mount Hakone. When Saneaki asks if there’s anything wrong with that, Kayo replies that Mitsuyoshi said he’s incredibly skillful in swordplay. She’s about to ask when he first started learning it, but he quickly stops her—telling her that it’s meaningless for a woman to raise questions about swords. Kayo is surprised and apologizes, but Saneaki continues. He knows that she’s fond of naginata, but the nature of his sword and her naginata are really different from each other. That’s why he can’t talk about the path of the sword with her, as he believes that it’ll only be futile.

Before Kayo can say anything, Saneaki apologizes for his inability to provide a tasteful conversation. He asks her not to mind him and continue eating, and he’ll ask the owner to clear the table once she’s done. He’ll accompany her to the bath as well, so he wants her to rest and prepare for tomorrow. Thinking that she has offended Saneaki, Kayo sadly nods and apologizes for saying something unnecessary. It makes her feel even more awkward, and it doesn’t help that she’ll have to stay with him all night. When she lifts her head, Kayo notices something gleaming on Saneaki’s chest. She wonders if it’s a necklace, but afraid that he’d dismiss her question as “meaningless” again… she quickly decides not to ask. After letting out a small sigh, she turns her focus back to her dinner.

VS Shiguragi

While examining Kayo, Shiguragi finds a dagger hidden under her shiromuku. At first he grins saying he can use it to slice her up slowly, but he suddenly stops upon noticing the pattern—from which he figures out that the dagger is actually Juzumaru. Shiguragi wonders if the wedding parade was arranged for the sake of carrying Juzumaru to Sunpu, but Kayo has no idea either. She’s just as confused as he is, though she obviously finds it weird how the shogunate handed Juzumaru—one of the Five Heavenly Swords—to her as the bride’s dagger. Before they can figure anything out, Saneaki arrives to rescue Kayo. Of course she feels relieved to see him, but at the same time she’s also worried about his safety. They’re surrounded by Shiguragi and his men, so it’ll be hard for him to take them on by himself. Or so she thought.

Upon seeing Saneaki, Shiguragi asks why they’re carrying Juzumaru with them. Saneaki answers that he doesn’t know anything either. His job as a guard is to protect Kayo, and he wants Shiguragi to let her go. Shiguragi doesn’t believe this at all though, thinking that Saneaki is just playing dumb. Besides, he won’t forget how Saneaki attacked his men and damaged his horn—a fact that Saneaki can’t deny. One of the oni shouts that he won’t forgive Saneaki for killing his older brother, but Shiguragi quickly warns him not to do it—ordering him to stay with Kayo instead. Just as the oni raises a protest, Saneaki chuckles saying it’d be wise not to attack him… because the bandit won’t be able to touch him anyway.

Kayo is surprised to hear this, as she knows that Saneaki normally would never say something like that. Provoked by Saneaki’s words, the oni angrily leaves Kayo’s side and charges in to attack him. He easily blocks the attack though, and he tells her to use this chance to escape. The oni curses and tries to chase after her, but she keeps on running until she makes it back to the path somehow. Worried about Saneaki, Kayo goes to hide behind the trees and turns to see how he’s doing. Back in the clearing, the bandits and Saneaki are glaring at each other. Knowing that she can’t do anything to help him, Kayo can pray for his safety.

Meanwhile, Saneaki can see that Kayo has safely gone into hiding. She’s keeping a safe distance instead of running off, and he believes it’s the best decision one can make in an instant. Saneaki then clutches his sword once again, keeping an eye on Kayo at the same time. The oni, who has lost track of Kayo by now, soon returns and takes another attempt to avenge his brother… but Saneaki calmly counter-attacks with the back of his sword. The oni is taken by surprise, and a loud thud is heard before he collapses onto the ground—though he’s not bleeding. Saneaki wants to avoid killing as much as possible, no matter who his opponent might be. However, he can tell that Shiguragi won’t be as easy to deal with. At the same time, Shiguragi seems to be greatly annoyed upon seeing Saneaki’s strength.

Just then Habakitsuki comes out to complain. She says it’s boring how Saneaki only hits the oni with the back of his sword, and she wants him to kill them already. He flatly answers that he’s not fighting for her sake though, and then he sends her to stay by Kayo’s side instead. Habakitsuki sulks saying the blood of oni isn’t tasty anyway, but she obediently goes over to Kayo. Saneaki knows that she won’t do any harm, though he doesn’t think she’ll be useful either. (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ It’s just that if anything happens to Kayo, Habakitsuki will definitely make a ruckus and inform Saneaki.

When Shiguragi asks why he’s mumbling to himself, Saneaki simply says that it’s got nothing to do with him. All that he wants is for Shiguragi to put down his weapon and leave, but sadly Shiguragi refuses to withdraw. He seems to believe that if he runs off, Saneaki would only attack him from behind. Shiguragi then takes out his chained scythe and hurls it towards Saneaki. Unfortunately for him, Saneaki can read the track of his scythe and accurately repels it. Shiguragi launches another attack immediately after, but no matter how many times he tries… his scythe always gets dodged and knocked down. His weapon has become completely powerless . It’s not because Shiguragi’s strength is inferior—he just chose the wrong opponent.

Behind the trees, Kayo is totally captivated. She knows this isn’t the right time, and yet she can’t help but admire Saneaki’s fighting style. The way he uses his sword is very smooth and fluid, and she finds herself mesmerized by every single move he makes—she has never seen such a beautiful swordsmanship before. Kayo holds her breath as the duel continues, with Shiguragi repeatedly hurling his scythe only to have it repelled by Saneaki. Even though their lives are in danger, the battle looks like a sacred ceremony in her eyes. She can’t seem to breathe properly, and she even finds it hard to blink. She never knew that such a charming swordsmanship exists in this world.

Just as Saneaki knocks his scythe down again, Shiguragi proceeds to pull the chain—flinging the scythe upwards. Kayo gasps and panics, thinking that it’d be impossible to dodge… but again, Saneaki blocks it easily. This really surprises both Kayo and Shiguragi, and Saneaki takes this chance to knock Shiguragi’s feet—ultimately knocking him down. At that state, it’s plain impossible for Shiguragi to run or fight. Once again, Saneaki tells Shiguragi to put his sword down. He says that Shiguragi won’t be able to defeat him, so he wants Shiguragi to receive judgment at the magistrate’s office. However, Shiguragi grins saying he won’t allow that to happen.

When Shiguragi stands up, Kayo wonders if he’s going to take his chained scythe again—even though it should be impossible for him to fight in that condition. Shiguragi says his friends would be troubled if he gets caught, so he’s going to go ahead and wait for them in hell. Before Saneaki can stop him, Shiguragi uses the scythe to slice his own throat. Kayo shuts her eyes and trembles in fear as blood spurts out of his neck, and a heavy groan echoes in the clearing—marking the end of his life. As she averts her gaze from the corpse, Saneaki mutters that committing suicide is a foolish thing. In the end, Shiguragi chose death over arrest.

Even though Shiguragi was a terrifying oni, the moment of his suicide comes as a great shock for Kayo. Saneaki soon comes over to ask if she’s alright, and despite her nod… he notices that she’s shivering. He then asks for her hand, and he holds it to help her calm down. The warmth of his hand is spreading onto her, chasing away the cold sensation she felt upon witnessing Shiguragi’s suicide. Knowing that Kayo is terrified, Saneaki apologizes for not arriving sooner. She only says that she’s glad to see him unharmed, and he smiles as he assures her that everything is fine now—there’s nothing else to fear. His gentle voice is slowly seeping into her heart, eventually calming her down.

After that, Kayo thanks Saneaki for saving her. He says she doesn’t have to thank him since it’s his job to keep her safe, but he looks relieved to see her unharmed. Saneaki then returns to the clearing, where he ties up the unconscious oni with a vine. Once he’s done, he walks over to Shiguragi’s corpse and closes his eyes—praying for Shiguragi to rest in peace. Kayo is obviously confused to see this, but Saneaki only apologizes and doesn’t explain anything. Instead, he suggests returning to everyone’s place as quickly as possible. As Kayo wonders if everyone is alright, Saneaki assures her that it’s not a problem—they should be done dealing with the oni who ambushed them by now.

Before going back, Saneaki hands the bride’s dagger back to Kayo. This reminds her of what Shiguragi said earlier, and he confirms that Shiguragi is right—the dagger is undoubtedly Juzumaru. As one of the Five Heavenly Swords, it’s supposed to be given to the winner of the Tournament of Sword Retrieval. People believe that samurai who are chosen by the Five Heavenly Sword will receive the grand power to seal youkai, so she can’t help but wonder why Juzumaru is here as the bride’s dagger. When Kayo asks if Saneaki knows about this, he admits that he had no idea either. However, he reminds her that Sunpu is currently holding their tournament. The awarding ceremony will be held one day after their scheduled arrival, and he doesn’t think it’s a mere coincidence. The shogunate is probably using the wedding parade to deliver Juzumaru to Sunpu.

Since Kayo seems confused, Saneaki explains that the Five Heavenly Swords are Hinomoto’s treasures. It would be bad if they fall into the wrong hands, and so whenever a tournament is held outside of Edo, the shogunate would use various methods to deliver the swords. As far as he knows, they tend to disguise it as an Ise pilgrimage, chatsubo-dochu, and basically anything that appears unrelated to the swords. In this case, the cover is a wedding parade. After all, no one would expect the bride to carry one of the Five Heavenly Swords. That being said, she wonders why the shogunate didn’t tell them anything at all—even though they’re the ones who have to deliver Juzumaru. Besides, she’s a bit concerned about this whole issue.

Noticing the wistful look on Kayo’s face, Saneaki asks her what’s wrong. At first she hesitates—knowing that she probably shouldn’t say it—but he says he doesn’t mind. They’re currently alone with no one else in sight, so he asks her to share her thoughts with him. For people, the tournament is similar to a festival. She finds it strange that they’re holding it so soon after Tadanaga’s death, and Saneaki answers that he doesn’t know what the shogunate is planning either. However, he does know that Tadanaga was forced to commit suicide by his own brother—Iemitsu. He was stripped of his rank and civil rights as the daimyo of the Sunpu Clan, while his son, Choushichirou, is in confinement. Considering these issues, the wedding parade is definitely a dangerous mission.

The Five Heavenly Swords opened a long period of war, and they also symbolize peace and tranquility in Hinomoto. By handing Juzumaru to the new castellan of Sunpu, Iemitsu is probably trying to secure the castellan’s position and authority… which means there might be a political dispute going on behind the screen. That’s when Kayo realizes that she marched straight into a vortex of conspiracies, not to mention she has to carry one of the Five Heavenly Swords as well. As she shivers in fear, Saneaki says she’s really unfortunate—as the shogunate gave her a risky mission without even informing her. Feeling bad for her, he quietly picks a wisteria flower from the branch above their heads and hands it to her.

Realizing that Saneaki is trying to cheer her up, Kayo smiles and thanks him for the lovely flower—which he gently puts on her hair. When she shyly asks if she can really have it, he smiles saying the pale colors of wisteria compliment her shiromuku really well. He points out that her hair is all messed up though. It’d be terrible for a bride to look like that, so he asks her to stay still as he fixes her hair. The hands that were holding a sword until just a moment ago are now softly touching her hair, sending all of her fears to melt away. At the same time, she thinks about the beautiful swordsmanship he created with the same hands. Maybe it’s because she just went through a terrifying experience, but her heart can’t seem to stop racing.

Saneaki then asks Kayo to indulge herself in the scent of wisteria and just think of Juzumaru as a dream, knowing that it’ll be the best option for her. Kayo agrees. The fact that they didn’t know about Juzumaru means the shogunate probably doesn’t want her to find out… so she takes Saneaki’s advice and decides to forget everything. As they walk back to everyone’s place, she slowly closes her eyes and drowns in the scent of wisteria on her hair.

By the time they return to the main road, their friends have tied up all the remaining oni—just as Saneaki predicted. They all feel really bad for exposing Kayo to danger, but she asks them not to apologize. She’s just glad to see them safe, similarly to how they feel relieved that she’s unharmed. Besides, Saneaki came to protect her—though Enishi doesn’t seem too happy to hear this LOL. When Enishi asks where Saneaki is, Kayo realizes that he’s nowhere to be seen. For a moment she panics and wonders where he has gone off to, but he comes back soon after that. Since Kayo looks incredibly relieved to see him, Saneaki asks if she needs something from him.

When Kayo explains that she was wondering where he went off to, Saneaki apologizes for disappearing so suddenly. It turns out that he left to get rid of the weapons they took from the oni group, because the oni clan is not allowed to wield a sword. He threw everything off the cliff, so it’ll be impossible to retrieve them. This reminds Kayo of the law of “sword hunt”, but she decides to leave the rest to the officials. For now, they have to focus on accomplishing their mission. As they resume their journey, she wishes for no further problems to occur until the moment they arrive in Sunpu.

Farewell in Sunpu

While Kayo is waiting for her palanquin, Hanzou comes to talk to her. Hanzou can see that Kayo is ready to depart from Sunpu, mostly because she doesn’t have much luggage. When Kayo asks if Hanzou needs anything from her, Hanzou takes out a fabric and hands it to her. She explains that Saneaki received it from the old merchant he saved in Mount Hakone, and he asked her to give it to Kayo. Hanzou asked if he’s not going to hand it himself, but he seemed to be in a hurry. Upon hearing this, Kayo quietly walks away. When Hanzou asks where she’s going, she only apologizes and promises to come back before the departure.

From there, Kayo leaves the town to search for Saneaki. It takes her quite some time, but she eventually finds him in a grove of trees by the roadside. Kayo is about to walk up to Saneaki when she notices that he’s putting his hands together in front a certain object, and the atmosphere makes it difficult for her to approach him. Upon taking a closer look, she realizes that he’s actually praying in front of a grave. It’s a surprising sight for her, and she can’t help but to stop and watch. Saneaki has brought some flowers too for the grave, and he looks like a different, unfamiliar person in Kayo’s eyes.

黒羽実彰 (CV:前野智昭)

It doesn’t take long until Saneaki senses Kayo’s presence, but he looks surprised to see her. When he asks what she’s doing here, she apologizes and says that she didn’t mean to peek. Even if it’s only for a while, Kayo is happy to see Saneaki again… though it also causes her to be rather nervous. Kayo then takes out the fabric, and Saneaki confirms that he did give it to Hanzou earlier. He asks if she has a problem with it, so she answers that she doesn’t have any reasons to accept it. He helped her a lot during their journey, so she’s the one who should be thanking him. Besides, she can tell that the fabric is of high quality… and she feels bad for accepting it without saying anything to him.

However, Saneaki only tells Kayo to accept the fabric. He doesn’t think he deserves her gratitude either, because he was simply doing his job as a guard. In other words, he’s just the same as her. It was his role to protect her through Tokaido, and he receives a reward for doing his job—that’s all. Of course Kayo is also aware of this, but noticing that she’s still concerned… Saneaki notes that she tends to worry about others a bit too much. Maybe it’s because she works in the service industry, but she’s incredibly sensitive to people’s expressions and feelings. Saneaki adds that while it be a little late to say this, Kayo shouldn’t get involved further with this wedding parade issue. He asks her to forget everything she saw and heard by the time she reaches Edo—for her own sake. Saneaki is aware that he should’ve put his thoughts into words more though, so once again he asks Kayo to take the fabric.

Saneaki is about to walk away after that, but Kayo quickly stops him. She then takes out her charm and asks him to take it, explaining that it was made by her mother. Before her departure, her father gave it to her. While the shogunate prepared a palanquin for Kayo, the guards have to return to Edo on foot. Even if it’s not much, she’s hoping the charm will aid Saneaki along the way. At first Saneaki is reluctant since he knows that Kayo’s mother has passed away, and so the charm must be important to her. However, she assures him that her mother’s memento is something that she uses everyday—her naginata. This reminds him that her mother was a martial artist, and he finally agrees to accept the charm. She also informs him that it’s filled with morning glory seeds from last year, so he can plant them or use them for medicines.

Saneaki gives Kayo a brief nod before taking his leave. She thanks him and asks him to be careful along the way, but he doesn’t answer and quietly walks away, Just as Kayo thinks about how mysterious he is, Tsuzuramaru appears to chase after Saneaki—begging the latter to spar with him. He’s soon followed by Kei, who’s grumbling about their failure to catch up with Saneaki in time. Apparently they were too late because Tsuzuramaru had some difficulties with a certain pot… which must be the one he broke back in Hakone LOL. Suzukake soon comes to point out that it was partly Kei’s fault too. He actually went to see the tournament arena in Sunpu, so he can’t exactly blame Tsuzuramaru for everything. Kei is also aware of this, as he panics and only tells Suzukake to shut up. Behind them, Enishi calls out to Saneaki and asks if he has any sisters. Enishi actually wouldn’t mind taking his mother either, and Sakyou can only let out a sigh as he catches up with them. ✿*,(*´◕ω◕`*)+✿.*

Hanzou comes to find Kayo right after that. She wonders why the guards are making such a commotion, so Kayo answers that Saneaki seems to be really popular. Hanzou can understand how they feel though, because Saneaki is undoubtedly a strong samurai. If she can get the chance to do so, Hanzou would like to spar with him too. In any case, Hanzou came to tell Kayo that their palanquin is ready. Kayo feels bad and apologizes for wandering around, but Hanzou says it’s fine. After making sure that Kayo is ready for the departure, Hanzou guides her back to the palanquin in town. However, Kayo is still curious about the grave Saneaki was praying at. Whose grave was that? Is it the grave of someone important to him…?


Chapter 1

Time has passed since Kayo returned to Edo.

1634. April.

The season has changed, and Edo is now wrapped in the warm sunlight of spring. Cheerful voices can be heard everywhere, as everyone—both adults or children—seem to be in high spirits. It’s because the time has finally come for the Tournament of Sword Retrieval in Edo. One morning, Kayo is sweeping the ground in front of the restaurant while recalling her Tokaido journey. Now that she has returned home, the trip to Sunpu feels like a dream to her. It feels like she never actually left on a journey, and that she’s always been here at home—running the restaurant with her father. That being said, she does know that it wasn’t a dream. The 10 ryou she received for participating in the wedding parade allowed her father to pay his debts, and things would’ve been difficult for their restaurant right now if it wasn’t for the reward money.

Kayo then stops sweeping to let out a sigh. She has completely returned to her daily life, but she wonders how everyone else is doing right now. The first one who comes into her mind is Saneaki. He’s usually calm and quiet, but he’s also the most reliable person whenever something happens. Kayo still remembers how Saneaki saved her from Shiguragi that day, and his beautiful swordsmanship has never left her heart ever since. As Kayo wonders about how Saneaki is doing, her father comes out and asks if she’s done cleaning up. He wants her to go fetch vegetables from Yohee’s place, though she didn’t realize that it’s already the time for stocking up. Normally Yohee would sell his vegetables at the market, but the shops are currently closed due to the upcoming tournament. That’s why whenever they need more vegetables in this season, Kayo and her father would go straight to Yohee’s farm.

Anyway, Kayo agrees to visit Yohee once she’s done cleaning up. In addition, her father also wants her to check the wild plants along the way. Yohee’s farm is located in the mountains, where they can find edible wild plants growing in certain locations. It’s been quite a while since they last foraged those plants, so it’s about time to harvest them again. Kayo’s father is really thankful to have Kayo helping him out, which in return motivates her to work harder. She wonders if it’s alright for her to leave the restaurant, but he tells her that he can handle things until she returns from Yohee’s farm. In fact, he did run the restaurant alone while she was away. This reminds Kayo of her role as a fake princess, which—once again—really feels like a dream. She left Edo for quite a while, but the realization never really sinks in. She keeps thinking about this as she finishes cleaning up and heads to Yohee’s farm.

After receiving the vegetables from Yohee, Kayo puts them in a basket and carries them on her back as she leaves the farm. From there, she explores the mountains further to check up on the wild plants. She remembers that there should be brackens growing nearby, and she’s glad to see that they’re just starting to sprout. Once they remove the lye, they can make delicious boiled or pickled brackens—her father will definitely be happy. Kayo then lowers her basket to the ground, but just as she throws the freshly-picked brackens into it… she hears the trees rustling. For a moment she wonders if it’s the wind, but she quickly realizes that it’s different—something is moving behind the trees. She feels a bit afraid at the thought of wild animals, but what leaps out of the bushes turns out to be something much more dangerous. It’s an okuri-inu—a youkai.

Kayo is shocked to see the okuri-inu, mostly because it’s still bright outside. It glares at her as it opens its wide mouth, letting a terrifying, loud roar. Out of fear, she screams, throws her basket at it, and takes the chance to escape. Unfortunately, the okuri-inu is chasing after Kayo. It’s not that fast, but she can’t seem to shake it off either. She continues running until she eventually sees a cliff hanging by the roadside, but it doesn’t mean she can slow down—she has to get away somehow. However, the okuri-inu seems to be tired of playing chase… because it decides to jump straight towards Kayo. She instinctively twists herself in the hope of avoiding it, but sadly this only causes her to lose balance and slide off the cliff.

When Kayo opens her eyes, she finds herself on the bottom of the cliff. Luckily the slope is gentle, so she survived with only a few scratches. The okuri-inu is standing on the top of the cliff, but for some reason… it’s not pursuing her anymore. It’s only growling at her from above. She finds this weird because even if it’s a cliff, the okuri-inu should be able to come down if it wants to. The okuri-inu eventually leaves, and Kayo can finally feel relieved. The problem is that she doesn’t know where she is, not to mention she lost one of her sandals… and it’s nowhere to be seen. Even though she can walk, there’s a lot of pebbles and rocks that might injure her feet.

For a moment, Kayo doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t think she can find anyone in this vicinity, but it’s only until she notices a hut in the distance. Thinking that she might be able to borrow some footwear, she decides to pay it a visit. Upon reaching the hut, Kayo tries calling out and asking if anyone is inside… but she receives no answer. She wonders what kind of person is living so deep in the mountains, and she certainly hopes that it’s not a bandit or something. Once again, she calls out to ask if anyone is around. She also explains that she lost one of her sandals, so she’s hoping to borrow some footwear. There’s still no reply from inside though. She starts wondering if the hut is empty, but it doesn’t seem to be neglected.

Feeling curious, Kayo decides to take a peek from the window… and she lets out a gasp. There’s someone inside, and she recognizes him as one of the guards for the wedding parade—Saneaki. She was wishing to see him again one day, but she never thought she’d find him in such a place. He doesn’t seem to hear her gasp though, and he keeps his eyes closed as he kneels down—as if he’s praying. The sight looks like a scene from a picture book, and she can’t help but feel fascinated. However, the door creaks when Kayo touches it. Saneaki immediately opens his eyes and turns towards her, while she quickly greets him saying it’s been a while. She didn’t expect to run into him here, and he seems just as surprised to see her.

When Saneaki asks what Kayo is doing here, she explains that she came to the mountains to forage wild plants… but then she got attacked by a youkai and fell off the cliff while escaping. He seems confused to hear about the youkai, and he asks if she’s unharmed. She nods saying she’s fine, but she lost one of her sandals. She saw his hut from afar, so she came here in the hope of borrowing some footwear. Of course she never thought she’d find him inside the hut, though he seems to accept their sudden reunion quicker than she does. Saneaki nods saying he does have some spare sandals, and he asks Kayo to come inside. She’s a bit taken aback because she has a lot things to say and ask, but he simply goes back into his hut. It’s as if he’s refusing to take any questions. After thinking for a while, Kayo eventually decides to follow Saneaki inside—partly because she’s afraid that the okuri-inu might be lurking nearby.

Upon entering the small hut, Kayo can see that Saneaki is living alone. He asks her not to hold back and come in, but she hesitates because her feet are dirty. She obviously doesn’t want to bring soil inside, and she’s about to ask for a washcloth when he suddenly apologizes for not noticing it sooner. After taking a washcloth, Saneaki kneels in front of Kayo and asks her to lift one of her legs. If she finds it hard to stand on one leg, she can hold onto his shoulder. Kayo quickly assures Saneaki that she can wipe them herself, and she panics because she’s not a princess anymore. Due to her rank, it’d be disrespectful of her to have her feet cleaned up by a samurai.

However, Saneaki only tells Kayo to stay still and leave everything to him. She’s about to argue, thinking that he might still see her as a princess… but he only asks her not to move. He says he can’t wipe her feet if she keeps fidgeting like that, so she quickly apologizes—even though she’s still panicking inside. Once Saneaki is done, Kayo feels terrible that he had to do so much for her. He doesn’t think of it as a problem at all though, and he’s more concerned about her scratches instead—knowing that she must’ve scraped herself as she slid down the cliff. While her wounds don’t seem to be serious, he wants her to see a doctor after returning to town. Just to be safe. This makes her realize that he wiped her feet to check for injuries, and she feels embarrassed for having weird thoughts.

That aside, Kayo asks if Saneaki is living here in the hut. He answers that it’s only a temporary residence, and he’s going to leave before long. Still, Kayo is glad to be able to see Saneaki again. They haven’t seen each other since the wedding parade ended, and she thanks him for saving her during their journey. She feels that no matter how many times she thanks him, it will never be enough. However, he points out that he asked her to forget about the wedding parade before leaving Sunpu… and yet their reunion reminded her of their journey. Kayo is surprised when Saneaki apologizes, asking her to forget about their meeting today. She finds this rather hard to accept because despite the terrifying experience, their journey wasn’t exactly unpleasant for her.

Kayo is aware that she always caused trouble for Saneaki, but he asks her not to misunderstand. He’s not doing this because he dislikes her. It’s just that she has accomplished her mission safely, and if she keeps looking back… she might end up getting dragged into unnecessary conflicts. He doesn’t want to ruin her peace, and that’s why he wants her to forget him and what happened between them today. Even though Saneaki is doing this for her own sake, Kayo can’t help but feel a bit sad. He also mentions that he has no intentions of getting involved with the world anymore, and all that he wants is to have a quiet life alone. Kayo can ask if Saneaki is living a secluded life for training; wonder about his objective; ask if he doesn’t feel lonely; or ask if he can’t make her an exception. Either way, he won’t say anything more than what he already said. Even if she offers to accompany him, he’ll only smile saying she’s really kind… and then asks her to direct that kindness to someone else.

In any case, Saneaki chooses to live quietly in peace. When he became a guard for the wedding parade, he has decided that it was going to be the last time he wields his sword. Upon hearing this, Kayo realizes that he chose to leave the path of sword. She can’t help but find this strange though, especially because of how strong he is. Saneaki doesn’t tell Kayo the reason though. Instead, he decides that it’s about time for her to go back to town. The okuri-inu might still be roaming around nearby, so he’s going to walk her to a safe area. Kayo actually wants to talk to Saneaki for a bit longer, but knowing that he doesn’t want to hold further conversation… she has no choice but to agree. She then thanks him for the sandals and says that she’ll return them tomorrow, but he points out that she ran into a youkai at noon. This area is dangerous, so he doesn’t think she should come to visit him anymore.

However, Saneaki is amazed that Kayo safely survived the okuri-inu’s attack. When she explains that it stopped pursuing her after she fell off the cliff, he quietly mutters that it’s probably because of him. She doesn’t get the meaning at all though, and she’s about to ask further when he suddenly stops and shifts towards the window. Just then Habakitsuki pops out, looking rather disappointed that Saneaki is letting Kayo go despite their reunion. Despite Saneaki’s attempt to shut her up, she grins saying she knows that he actually doesn’t want to send Kayo home. Even during the Tokaido journey, she notices that Saneaki seems to like Kayo. (*´艸`*)ァハ♪

As Saneaki frowns and tells Habakitsuki to disappear, Kayo wonders why he’s mumbling to himself—as if he’s talking to someone. Noticing her confusion, he quickly tells her it’s nothing and asks her not to mind him. Habakitsuki is clearly amused to see their interaction though, and she finds it unfortunate that Kayo can’t see her. Things would be more interesting that way, as she’d be able to give Kayo a mix of facts and fictions regarding Saneaki. (。-∀-)ニヒ♪ Just as Saneaki grits his teeth, Habakitsuki completely changes the subject by saying there’s someone outside—the “usual old man”. The next moment, Kayo notices that the air around Saneaki has become tense. Habakitsuki tells him to kill said old man if he finds him annoying, but just as he already said over and over again… he doesn’t want to kill people. Habakitsuki is obviously unimpressed by his “boring” answer, and she disappears with a pout.

When Kayo gives Saneaki a questioning look, he apologizes and says that he has something to do before sending her off. He then asks her to stay inside his hut, promising to return as soon as he’s done. She tries asking about what’s going on, but he doesn’t answer and leaves without a word. Worried about Saneaki, Kayo goes over to peek from the window. He walks towards the bamboo grove with firm steps, eventually stopping to say that he knows Munenori is hiding there. For a moment Kayo is confused because there’s no one in the bamboo grove, and yet Saneaki is staring straight at it. After a while, a samurai comes out from behind the trees… and Kayo recognizes him as the Tokugawa samurai she met in Sunpu, back when they received the reward for the wedding parade. It’s the father of Mitsuyoshi—Yagyuu Munenori.

As Kayo wonders about why Munenori is here, he praises Saneaki for sensing his presence from inside the hut. Saneaki flatly answers that he didn’t, but when Munenori asks who let him know that Munenori was hiding in the bamboo grove… Saneaki simply says that it’s got nothing to do with him. Saneaki has made his answer clear so many times before, but he has no intentions of working for the shogunate. However, Munenori says he can’t give up that easily either. Munenori wants Saneaki to come with him and use his impressive swordsmanship to serve the shogunate. Saneaki answers this by asking Munenori to leave. He doesn’t want to live by relying on his swordsmanship anymore, and he’s going to return a certain thing to Munenori as well.

Since the bamboo trees are rustling, Kayo can’t hear their conversation clearly. The only thing she knows is that Saneaki and Munenori are having an argument. While she actually feels guilty for eavesdropping, she can hear their voices from inside the hut. As a samurai who has been living with his sword, Munenori knows that Saneaki must’ve gone through a lot of training to become that strong. He used to walk on the path of sword, so Munenori doesn’t get why he wants to abandon his sword that much. From Mitsuyoshi, Munenori also received reports that during their journey through Tokaido… Saneaki rarely used his sword. Upon hearing this, Kayo realizes that Munenori is right. Back when Saneaki was working as her guard, he never touched his sword unless it was really necessary. Kayo finds it strange how Saneaki—the strongest one among the guards—is trying to abandon his sword, and now she can see that she’s not the only one who feels that way.

Munenori doesn’t know what turned Saneaki into such a coward, but it leaves him with no choice. Kayo is shocked when Munenori draws his sword and challenges Saneaki to a duel, hoping that it’ll get him to accept the blood of a samurai flowing inside of him. Despite his age, Munenori’s movements prove to be unbelievably sharp as he charges in. At the same time, Saneaki grits his teeth as he draws his sword and parries the attack. Munenori says that while he might be old, his strength as the swordsmanship teacher for the Tokugawa family is on par with Saneaki’s. On the other hand, Saneaki only says that old men like Munenori don’t seem to know what it means to be too old for something LOL.

The sound of their intense duel is echoing through the bamboo grove. Maybe it’s because both of them are powerful samurai, and also because they don’t have any intentions to kill each other… but the battle looks more like a sword dance in Kayo’s eyes. Munenori is attacking, and Saneaki is blocking his attacks. Their movements beautifully match, most likely because they’re reading each other’s motions. However, Munenori soon realizes that Saneaki never initiates an attack. Even when he delivers a hit, Saneaki only blocks it and doesn’t strike back. Due to his vow to never use his sword again, Saneaki just can’t defeat Munenori. If he wins, Munenori would surely pester him to work for the shogunate. It’s a tricky situation though, because he can’t afford to lose either. If he falls onto his knees, Munenori would only force him to do the same thing.

Meanwhile, Kayo is amazed to see their duel. Saneaki’s swordsmanship is as beautiful as she remembers it to be, and she vividly recalls the memories of their Tokaido journey. His swordsmanship has completely captivated her heart. Since Saneaki is clearly not giving it his all, Munenori tells him to brace himself and takes a huge leap forward to end the battle. Saneaki holds onto his sword as he prepares for the attack, but just as Munenori swoops his blade from below… a REALLY loud crack is heard from Munenori’s hip. The next second, Munenori collapses with a scream—surprising both Saneaki and Kayo.

…and so the duel ends because Munenori cracked his hip. (((壊゚∀゚)))ァヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャ

Upon seeing this, Kayo instantly snaps out of her amazement. Munenori looks really pale, not to mention he’s also sweating a lot. As Saneaki puts his sword back into its sheath, Kayo quickly runs outside to help Munenori. She apologizes for leaving the hut, but she’s really worried about Munenori. At first Munenori mistakes Kayo for Hisahime, but then realizes that she’s the girl from the wedding parade. She greets him saying it’s been a while, then she asks him not to force it if his hip is hurting. Kayo tells Munenori to hold onto her as she helps him to walk, and Saneaki decides to lend a hand as well. Munenori mutters a weak apology as they bring him into the hut. 。゚(゚ノ∀`゚)゚。アヒャヒャ

Once they’re inside, Kayo helps Munenori to sit down and asks him to stay still for a while. It should help easing the pain, so he only has to bear with it for a while. He nods saying the pain is gradually subsiding, and she’s relieved to hear this. If his hip isn’t getting any better even after he takes a comfortable posture, they would have to call a doctor. When Saneaki sighs saying Munenori is so reckless, the latter groans saying he doesn’t like the idea of getting old. He never thought that he’d get hip pain just from a simple duel. That aside, Munenori says he was surprised when he saw Kayo. He finds it unexpected for someone to know about Saneaki’s place, but she answers that it was a coincidence.

Kayo then explains everything to Munenori, starting from how she got attacked by a youkai, fell off a cliff while escaping, and found her way to Saneaki’s hut. Similarly to them, Munenori also finds it strange for a youkai to appear in broad daylight. Even though she survived without serious injuries, he has no doubt that her life was in danger. Munenori then turns to Saneaki, telling him that—similarly to what Kayo just said—youkai have started appearing in Edo lately. In her case, the okuri-inu appeared in the mountains… but it came out before the sun sets. Now that Saneaki has learned about this, Munenori asks if he still has no intentions to work for the shogunate.

After a brief silence, Saneaki says he does want to help whenever he sees someone in trouble. It’s just that he doesn’t want to make a living by doing so. By serving the shogunate, he’ll have to kill the enemies of the Tokugawa shogun… but those enemies aren’t limited to youkai only. Saneaki has made it clear that he doesn’t want to kill people anymore. If he serves the shogunate, he obviously would be in no position to say that… and Munenori can’t deny this either. It’s difficult for them to understand each other due to their circumstances and position, so Munenori turns to ask for Kayo’s opinion—because she’s a neutral party in this situation. During their journey, Kayo has seen Saneaki’s abilities as a samurai from up close. Munenori wants to know if Kayo also finds Saneaki’s strength necessary, so he asks her to give them her honest opinion. She’s clearly hesitant at first though, considering her status as an ordinary town girl.

Kayo can either answer that she wants Saneaki to fight; ask if it’s really alright for him to leave the path of sword; say that they should respect his wish; or admit that she doesn’t want him to kill others. Saneaki won’t respond much, but he’s visibly moved if Kayo picks the last two options. Either way, Munenori will apologize to Kayo—knowing that his question is a cruel thing for her. She also apologizes for saying too much, but he tells her not to feel bad. After all, he was the one who asked for her opinion. Munenori then decides to leave for today, but he’s clearly not giving up—he expects Saneaki to accept his request next time. Saneaki’s answer remains firm though. No matter how many times Munenori comes to visit him, he has absolutely no intentions of using his sword anymore.

However, Munenori answers that regardless of what Saneaki is wishing for… swords choose their masters. Saneaki himself should understand that too, and he clearly looks disturbed upon hearing this. Since Kayo looks confused, Munenori then asks about how she survived the okuri-inu’s attack. She answers that after she fell off the cliff, it suddenly stopped pursuing her for an unknown reason—which confirms Munenori’s suspicion. No matter how hard Saneaki tries to reject it, his sword continues giving him power. The reason why the okuri-inu stopped must be because it was scared of Saneaki. He has his eyes closed now, looking really troubled as Kayo asks for further explanation. Ignoring Saneaki’s reaction, Munenori tells Kayo that Saneaki is actually the wielder of one of the Five Heavenly Swords—Ootenta.

Kayo is obviously surprised. The Five Heavenly Swords have the power to slay and seal youkai. Only those who are loved by the swords have the right to wield them, and they’re believed to be the manifestation of miracle. Saneaki doesn’t say anything when she asks him about this, but if it’s really true… it means she’s currently in the presence of an amazing person. Munenori, on the other hand, makes it very clear that it’s the truth. When Saneaki protests, Munenori simply says that there’s no need to hide it. In the past, he has won the tournament and received the honor of an ichibangatana three times. Saneaki obtained his first victory at the age of 18, through a tournament held in Kumamoto Castle. His second victory was in Kurobane Castle, and his third was in Sunpu Castle. It was after the tournament in Sunpu that Saneaki received Ootenta, along with the title of Master Swordsman.

Upon hearing this, Kayo is instantly reminded of the guards’ conversation during their Tokaido journey. Master Swordsman Ootenta is a legend, a swordsman so strong that all samurai would talk about how fantastic he is. None of them would ever thought that said Master Swordsman was traveling with them, but this explains a lot for Kayo. She can now understand the reason behind his impressive strength, and why she finds herself captivated by his swordsmanship. It wasn’t simply because he’s a “capable guard”, but because he’s Master Swordsman Ootenta—the great, unrivaled samurai whom others could never catch up to. Aside from his strength as a samurai who won the tournament three times, Saneaki is also the only person who can wield Ootenta.

Munenori asks if Kayo can understand why he’s very particular about Saneaki, and she gives him a nod in return. Saneaki was chosen by one of the Five Heavenly Swords, so they can’t just ask someone else to slay youkai as his replacement. Munenori believes that Saneaki is hiding Ootenta somewhere in this hut, and that’s also why no youkai are seen around the hut—they’re all scared of the sword’s power. Saneaki should be able to exterminate the youkai in Edo with that power, but again… he firmly states that he has no intentions of wielding Ootenta. He has decided not to fight with a sword anymore, and this confuses Kayo even more. She can’t help but wonder why he’s trying to let go of Ootenta. He won the tournament three times in the past, and receiving the Five Heavenly Swords is supposed to be the greatest honor for a samurai. Besides, she notices that he looks really sad…

Another silence ensues before Saneaki eventually speaks up, pointing out that Munenori’s hip should be okay by now. He then asks Munenori to take Kayo out of the mountains before the sun sets, assuring her that Munenori’s strength never deteriorates despite his old age. Even if they run into a youkai, he’ll surely chase it away… and so she doesn’t have to worry. Kayo is clearly reluctant, but Munenori simply takes his leave. Saneaki doesn’t say anything either, and realizing that their conversation has ended, Kayo follows Munenori out of the hut. He takes her down the mountains after that, but they don’t really talk along the way.

By the time Kayo arrives at home, her father has gotten really worried. She gives him a brief explanation so he wouldn’t feel even more concerned, and then she returns to her room earlier than usual. Even after getting into bed, Kayo doesn’t feel sleepy at all. Her mind is clear, awake and full of questions. Why does Saneaki want to abandon the path of sword despite his strength? Why did Saneaki make such a painful expression? In the end, what happened today led Kayo to the realization that she doesn’t know anything about Saneaki.

In Edo Castle, Iemitsu holds a meeting with Tenkai, Munenori, Mitsuyoshi, and Tatsukage. They still can’t find Choushichirou and Asakura, and Sunpu’s ichibangatana also went missing at the same time. There’s a possibility that they might be conspiring to incite a rebellion by using Choushichirou’s name, so Iemitsu eventually issues an order for the Iga clan to be positioned in Sunpu. No matter what happens, they have to retrieve Juzumaru as fast as possible and stop this rebellion.


Chapter 2

In the waiting room prepared for the tournament, Saneaki hears two Tokugawa samurai talking about how amazing the tournament is. The participants are incredibly enthusiastic, mainly because they might be able to get a good job by proving their abilities. It’s a great chance for ronin who haven’t found a master to serve yet, only relying on their swordsmanship to live. If they actually manage to win and get the title of ichibangatana, they’ll have their wishes granted as well. One of the samurai says he would’ve participated too if only he had the strength to compete in the tournament, and the other tells him to work on it everyday. If he trains seriously, maybe he’ll get the chance one day.

Saneaki is frowning as he listens to their conversation, eventually lifting his head when he hears footsteps approaching. It turns out to be Sakyou, who points out that his face is saying “I’d gladly trade places with them if I could.” When Saneaki asks if he’s participating in the tournament as well, Sakyou coldly answers that he has a reason for doing so. There’s a mysterious, dreadful tone in those words, and Saneaki quietly holds his breath—knowing that Sakyou has his own circumstances and resolution. Sakyou didn’t expect to run into Saneaki here though, mainly because Saneaki previously said that he wouldn’t be joining the tournament. However, he only tells Sakyou that he also has a reason for doing so.

There’s actually no need for Saneaki to fight in the tournament. He no longer has the intentions to show off his swordsmanship, and he no longer dreams of obtaining the title of ichibangatana either. However, Kayo found out about his identity when Munenori visited his hut. That’s when he realized that in order to let go of Ootenta, he needs to take a certain action. He wanted to throw the sword away quietly and seek for the land of end along with his prayers, but it wasn’t enough. He’s the only one who can use Ootenta, and the power to destroy youkai is necessary to protect Edo—the town where Kayo and everyone live in. Ootenta has chosen him as its wielder, and so in order to let it go, he needs to prove that there’s another samurai out there who deserves the sword more than he does.

Sakyou then says that he doesn’t really like prying into other people’s business, and he has no intentions of learning about Saneaki’s situation either. It’s just Sakyou notices that Saneaki seems to have doubts, and they’ll only cloud his swordsmanship at this rate. Immediately after saying this, Sakyou walks out of the waiting room—leaving Saneaki surprised. Saneaki closes his eyes as he thinks about Sakyou’s words, and he realizes that his path is indeed full of contradictions and doubts. After all, he’s swinging his sword in order to throw it away. Still, he doesn’t have any choice but to move forward. The least he can do is to pray for a little peace in the path he has to walk on.

Several have passed since Kayo’s reunion with Saneaki, and she’s helping out in the restaurant as usual today. After sending off the last customer who came for lunch, she exhales and wonders if they can take a short break. The number of customers naturally decreases when a match is taking place in Edo Castle, so things should slow down for a while at their restaurant. Since they have some free time, Kayo’s father soon comes out and asks Kayo to take a break. She thanks him and asks if she can go out to train, as it’s been a while since her last practice session. However, her father frowns upon realizing that she’s referring to naginata training. She actually saw this coming as well, but even so… she wants to be able to use her mother’s naginata—her mother’s memento—properly.

After a while, Kayo’s father sighs saying he has no choice. The restaurant is going to be busy again in the evening though, so he wants her to return before then. Kayo happily nods and thanks her father, then she returns to her room. After changing into her dojo wear, she takes her naginata and holds it tightly. It’s the naginata her mother used back when she was still alive. The reason why she’s learning naginata is mainly because she admires her mother, but today… she suddenly wants to go to the dojo for a different reason. It’s because of Saneaki.

Even though Saneaki told Kayo to forget about the wedding parade, there’s no way that she can forget everything. While she did have a terrifying experience, she also has a lot of wonderful memories with him. As much as she wants him to know, she failed to convey this last time. Now that Kayo has learned about Saneaki’s wish to abandon his sword, she wants to understand that feeling as much as she can. That’s why she suddenly wants to use her naginata. Of course she doesn’t think training alone would be enough, but she believes it’ll be better than not doing anything at all.

When Kayo reaches the dojo, she’s warmly welcomed by Omatsu—who’s really happy to see her coming for practice again. Omatsu previously visited Kayo’s house when she was traveling through Tokaido, and her father said she was staying at a relative’s house. Kayo actually feels bad for lying to Omatsu, because she doesn’t want to keep secrets from her best friend. Omatsu is the daughter of a warrior family, but she always treats Kayo nicely despite the difference between their social ranks. Unfortunately, Kayo just can’t tell anyone about the wedding parade—not even if it’s Omatsu.

Omatsu also asks about where Kayo was staying at, and Kayo answers that it was around Sunpu. Upon hearing this, Omatsu smiles saying it’s so nostalgic for her—she used to live in Sunpu before. Kayo never knew anything about this though, and Omatsu nods saying it’s because she never really talks about the time she spent there. Here, Kayo notices that Omatsu’s expression turns grim for a second… but it quickly changes back into a smile. Omatsu wonders if the trip was difficult for Kayo, because she remembers that her family had a rough journey when they were moving to Edo. Kayo nods saying she had a hard time as well, but then she smiles as she thinks about how she met the guards. The journey might be rough, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Noticing her expression, Omatsu teasingly asks if she met a wonderful person during her journey. Kayo instantly gets flustered and turns red, while Omatsu laughs saying she was just kidding. The two of them start practicing immediately after.

It’s been a while since the last time Kayo wielded her naginata, and she can feel joy running through her body. As she focuses on swinging her naginata, Saneaki’s image comes into her mind. He’s the owner of one of the Five Heavenly Swords, and a samurai who’s wishing to throw his sword away. The thought of Saneaki reminds Kayo of his beautiful swordsmanship, and she wishes that she could use her naginata like that. Kayo starts swinging her naginata as she attempts to copy Saneaki’s fluid movements, and she continues doing this until the teacher eventually comes to praise her fighting style. However, the teacher notices that it feels a bit different from before… and so she asks if Kayo met a good person when she was away. The teacher doesn’t know who she met and what she saw, but her fighting style is changing due to the influence of that person.

Kayo wonders if it’s because of Saneaki, but she doesn’t think she’s skilled enough to imitate his fighting style. His swordsmanship is truly impressive though, so it might be natural for her to receive his influence. After all, it’s the swordsmanship of a Master Swordsman—the wielder of Ootenta. This reminds her of the bitter expression he made that day, but she quickly shakes her head and tells herself to focus. The teacher soon asks Kayo to spar with Omatsu, and they’re about to begin when two ronin suddenly break into the dojo. One of the ronin asks if this is the women-only naginata dojo they heard about, and the other notes that it’s really filled with nothing but lovely women. Kayo is obviously surprised, even more so because the two ronin are creepily staring at them.

The teacher then asks what the ronin want from them. She states that she’s the teacher of this naginata dojo, and she wants them to leave if they have no business here. However, the ronin answer that they do have business. They came here to challenge her for a match over the dojo, as they recently lost all of their money because of gambling and have no place to stay in. In other words, they’re here for dojo-yaburi. It’s when outsiders force their way into a dojo and challenge the teacher, except in this case… the ronin also want to bet over the ownership of the dojo. The teacher asks them to leave since her dojo doesn’t accept matches with people who have different swordsmanship styles, but of course they just won’t listen. If she doesn’t want to hand over her dojo to them, she only has to win against them. They can switch to Kayo and Omatsu instead if the teacher refuses their challenge. However, they’re hinting that they’re going to do much more than a match since they find both Kayo and Omatsu lovely. Gross.

This leaves the teacher with no choice, and so she accepts the ronin’s challenge. Knowing that the ronin are threatening her, Kayo stops the teacher saying she’ll call someone to come over. Sadly, one of them grabs her wrist before she can go anywhere. Omatsu quickly takes her naginata and orders the ronin to let her go, but he only says that they won’t do anything as long as Kayo and Omatsu are quietly staying here in the dojo. The ronin grins as he releases Kayo’s arm, then he goes to rest his back against the door. If they make any suspicious movement, he’ll be able to stop them immediately. Kayo feels very frustrated, but she knows that she can’t win against them in terms of power.

After that, the other ronin asks the teacher to start their match. Kayo and Omatsu try to stop the teacher, but she simply tells them to stand back. They feel slightly relieved when the ronin takes a wooden sword from the wall, since it means he won’t be using a real blade for the match. However, their relief only lasts until the first ronin takes another wooden sword and joins in. Kayo says it’s unfair for the two of them to fight the teacher together, and Omatsu adds that a match like this will never be allowed… but again, the teacher only tells them that it’s fine. The ronin aren’t going to listen to any arguments, and they can only talk through their blades. When the teacher takes her stance, one of the ronin lets out a lecherous laugh. He mockingly says that she looks really good, as one can expect from a teacher.

The match begins immediately after. The dull sounds of wooden swords clashing against a naginata are echoing throughout the dojo, and the teacher is perfectly blocking the ronin’s attacks. Due to its length, naginata have wider reach compared to swords—which also makes them easier to handle. Omatsu and Kayo are amazed to see their teacher’s strength, but sadly… the situation turns unfavorable after a while. Fighting two opponents at once is obviously draining, and the teacher soon finds herself getting pushed back. The difference between a man and a woman’s stamina also poses to be a problem, and the match becomes even more exhausting for her if it drags on. Eventually, one of the ronin manages to knock the naginata off her hands. The naginata makes a dry, sharp sound as it drops onto the floor—marking the end of the match.

Worried about the teacher, Kayo and Omatsu immediately come over to ask if she’s alright. She assures them that she’s fine, while the ronin ask what she’s going to do now. They don’t mind taking her on if she wants to continue, though they think she should give up before she gets hurt. The teacher calmly answers that she did lose to them, and so they’re free to do whatever they want. When Kayo and Omatsu protest, the ronin point out that they didn’t do anything wrong. They won against the teacher after all, and the dojo now belongs to them. Following their victory, the ronin kick the teacher, Kayo, and Omatsu out of the dojo—even throwing out their belongings and equipments along. The ronin mockingly tell the three of them to snatch the dojo back if they’re angry, and they let out an obnoxious laughter before shutting the door.

As Kayo wonders why this had to happen, the teacher quietly tells her and Omatsu to go home for today. Kayo finds this unacceptable since it wasn’t a fair match, and Omatsu says both of them are going back inside to challenge the ronin. However, the teacher firmly tells them to stop. If anything happens to them, she’d only regret it for the rest of her life. Kayo weakly nods and apologizes, while Omatsu falls silent next to her. Kayo is mortified by her inability to do anything, and it’s a feeling she’s never known before. After picking up her mother’s naginata, she holds it tightly and wonders what her mother would do in this kind of situation.

That night, Kayo finds it hard to sleep because of what happened at the dojo. She feels really frustrated. Her naginata contains precious memories that she shared with her mother, and yet she failed to protect the dojo. She knows she doesn’t have the strength to win. Even if she discusses this with her father, he’d only warn her not to do anything dangerous. She doesn’t think there’s anyone else she can rely on, until Saneaki comes into her mind. She wonders if he would be willing to help. There’s no guarantee that he’ll agree to help, but she can’t seem to think of anyone else. It might be a selfish wish, but she doesn’t want to lose the place for her to learn naginata—the connection to her mother—like this. Kayo finally decides to visit Saneaki tomorrow, once the restaurant’s busy hours pass by. However, Kayo also admits that she probably only wants to see Saneaki’s beautiful, unwavering swordsmanship once again.

The next day, Kayo goes into the mountains alone. While she has memorized the path towards Saneaki’s hut, she’s nearly lost since everything in the woods looks very similar to each other. She’s been relying on her memories so far, but her confidence is gradually faltering. After a while, she arrives at the area where she previously ran into the okuri-inu. She feels scared, but assures herself that it’ll be alright—she brought her naginata today. That being said, Kayo still gets startled when she hears the bushes rustling. It’s highly unlikely for someone to wander so deeply into the mountains, and this leads her to think that it might be a youkai. She grows even more nervous as the sound gradually moves closer, until the bushes in front of her eventually begin shaking.

Kayo immediately attacks and swings her naginata, but then she hears a surprised voice from behind the bushes. The next second, a certain samurai walks out of the bushes—looking really shocked as he parries her naginata with his sword. He certainly didn’t expect to get attacked out of the blue, and Kayo is just as surprised to see him… because he turns out to be Tsuzuramaru. When Tsuzuramaru asks what she’s doing in the mountains and why she attacked him, Kayo deeply apologizes saying she mistook him for a youkai. He laughs saying she’s very brave, though he never thought that he’d be able to see her again. When she asks why he’s roaming around in the mountains, he answers that he’s actually looking for Saneaki. There are rumored sightings of a foreign-looking samurai in the mountains, and that’s why he came here.

This surprises Kayo since both of them are looking for Saneaki, and she mentions that she needs Saneaki to help her with a certain issue. Tsuzuramaru then asks if something is troubling her, and so she tells him about the dojo-yaburi incident. She came here because she doesn’t know anyone else who might be able to help, though she clearly didn’t expect to get lost. Upon hearing this, Tsuzuramaru offers to help Kayo if they fail to find Saneaki. While this makes her happy, she asks if he wouldn’t be troubled if they can’t find Saneaki—he came here to see Saneaki after all. However, he replies that it’s not exactly a problem. As sad as it may sound, he was defeated by Kei in the tournament today… and it was his first match too. It was a good match though, because it let him know that he’s not competent enough. It drove him to improve as much as possible to polish up his swordsmanship, and next time, he’s going to become an ichibangatana for sure.

Tsuzuramaru is being very optimistic despite his defeat, and Kayo chuckles saying it’s just like him to stay positive. However, he finds it very unfortunate that it all ended before he could fight Saneaki… and so he came here to ask Saneaki to spar with him. From the way Tsuzuramaru puts it, Kayo realizes that Saneaki seems to be participating in the tournament as well. When she asks about this, Tsuzuramaru answers that Saneaki is indeed fighting the tournament. Kayo doesn’t understand this at all. Saneaki insisted that he’s not going to use his swordsmanship to make a living, so why did he join the tournament…? Tsuzuramaru seems concerned upon seeing Kayo’s expression, but she quickly says it’s nothing and forces a smile.

Just then they hear a familiar sound of wings flapping in the sky, and Tsuzuramaru notes that Hayato has returned. Kayo is glad to see that Hayato is doing well, while Tsuzuramaru explains that he asked Hayato to look for Saneaki’s location from the sky. When Hayato comes down, Tsuzuramaru asks if he managed to find Saneaki. Hayato answers with a soft purr, and Tsuzuramaru laughs saying that’s just as expected from his partner. Tsuzuramaru then asks if he can show the way to Saneaki’s hut, and Hayato throws out his chest with a confident purr—as if he’s saying “of course!”. ゚.+:。ヾ(o・ω・)ノ゚.+:。 After that, Tsuzuramaru takes Kayo to follow Hayato through the woods.

Before long, Kayo and Tsuzuramaru arrive in front of Saneaki’s hut. She happily thanks him for the help, but he laughs saying she’s thanking the wrong person. Hayato lets out another purr when Kayo chuckles and turns to him, thanking him for leading them all the way here. Of course she feels incredibly grateful towards Tsuzuramaru as well, since she didn’t have to be afraid of getting attacked by youkai along the way. Now the only problem left is whether or not Saneaki is willing to help her, and Saneaki soon comes out of his hut—clearly looking displeased as he mutters her name. The first thing Saneaki says to Kayo is that he already told her to forget about her previous visit. She apologizes, but also makes it clear that it’s just impossible for her to do that. She’s aware that he’s concerned about her. Knowing this, is she still not allowed to remember him? Besides, she didn’t come here to play today.

Upon hearing this, Saneaki asks if something happened. Before Kayo can answer, however, Tsuzuramaru comes over and greets Saneaki—cheerfully saying that it’s been a while. Saneaki is obviously surprised to see him here, so Kayo explains that she ran into Tsuzuramaru in the mountains. While Saneaki grasps the situation pretty fast, Kayo notices that he doesn’t seem happy to have visitors—herself included. He looks wary as he asks if she came here because she needs something from him, and she nods saying she has a request. After explaining about the dojo-yaburi incident, Kayo asks Saneaki to help taking the dojo back. Silence hangs in the air as he slowly closes his eyes, letting out a small sigh before turning back to her.

When Kayo asks if she made an impossible request, Saneaki answers that he understands how she feels. However, the dojo got taken over because the teacher lost in a match. As the owner, she failed to protect what had to be protected. On the other hand, Saneaki is completely uninvolved. Even if they manage to take the dojo back with his help, he doesn’t think it’ll have any meaning at all. Kayo quietly nods saying her teacher did lose the match, but it was because she had to fight two ronin at the same time. Omatsu and her were held hostage, leaving the teacher with no choice. Saneaki looks a bit taken aback to hear this, and Kayo continues that it’s just cruel to snatch the dojo after such an unfair match.

Here, Kayo can either say that she wants Saneaki’s help; ask if he doesn’t find the match terrible; wonder if nothing he’s going to refuse no matter what; or mutter that she’s not strong enough to defeat the ronin herself. Kayo deeply bows her head and begs Saneaki to help them, but no matter what she says… a long silence will ensue before he finally opens his mouth to refuse. She actually saw this coming too, and she’s aware that she has made an impudent request. However, he tells her that it’s not wrong for her to ask for his help. It’s just that he has decided not to fight with a sword anymore, and that’s why he can’t help her. Even more than the shock of getting rejected, Kayo feels concerned about Saneaki’s words. In her eyes, it feels like his vow—his resolution to never wield a sword again—is firmly tying him down.

From Saneaki’s response, Kayo gets the feeling that something is torturing him. Something complicated, not simply because he grew bored or came to hate the way of sword. She’s aware that it’s not the time to think about this, but she wants to know. She’s starting to have difficulties understanding him. While he’s wishing to abandon the path of sword, she can’t shake off the feeling that he can’t escape from it—as if something is chaining him down. The contradiction really piques on Kayo’s curiosity, but she decides not to inquire further. Saneaki has refused her request, so she needs to give up. As for the dojo, she’ll have to figure something out with Omatsu and the teacher.

Just as Kayo opens her mouth to say something, Tsuzuramaru angrily yells that he’s very disappointed in Saneaki. Kayo came here because she needs help, and Tsuzuramaru asks if Saneaki is going to abandon her without doing anything. While Kayo is surprised by the sudden outburst, the ghastly atmosphere puts her into silence. However, she remembers that Tsuzuramaru has always respected Saneaki ever since they traveled through Tokaido together. This makes her realize that Tsuzuramaru is just as bitter as she is, since Saneaki is refusing to wield a sword despite his strength. Saneaki answers than if Tsuzuramaru is going to argue that much, he should go and help Kayo himself—it’s not like he’d lose to those ronin.

Tsuzuramaru says he’s not referring to that though. What he wants to know is if Saneaki is really going to ignore Kayo, despite knowing that she’s in trouble. Saneaki replies that he doesn’t mean to abandon her, but again… he has decided to never swing a sword anymore. Upon hearing this, Tsuzuramaru snaps and asks if Saneaki’s resolution really has that much of a meaning. After all, isn’t it a samurai’s duty to help people in need? Saneaki frowns at Tsuzuramaru’s words. He throws a glance at Kayo for a second, and then he closes his eyes again—as if he’s hiding how he feels inside. Tsuzuramaru is obviously not happy to see this, so he tells Saneaki to draw his sword. Saneaki looks like a gutless coward in his eyes, and he won’t be satisfied unless he knocks Saneaki back into shape.

Kayo is surprised when Saneaki quietly agrees, taking a few steps back to draw his sword. She doesn’t know what triggered him to accept the challenge, but she can’t seem to take her eyes off the beautiful gesture. As Saneaki takes his stance, Kayo notices that something is different. The sword he’s wielding right now isn’t the one he previously used, and this leads her to the realization that it might possibly be Ootenta. Meanwhile, Tsuzuramaru has taken his stance as well. Tension fills the air as Tsuzuramaru and Saneaki stand to face each other, leaving some distance between them. However, even Kayo knows that this match won’t take long—it’ll be settled in an instant.

Here, Kayo notices that Saneaki’s body makes a slight movement. The motion feels very natural, just like how a willow tree sways in the wind. By the time Tsuzuramaru realizes that Saneaki is initiating an attack, Saneaki’s blade is already pursuing him. As Tsuzuramaru counter-attacks with his Iai, the sharp sound of blades clashing echoes in the air. The next moment, Tsuzuramaru grits his teeth. Saneaki is standing right in front of him, pointing Ootenta’s blade at his chest. If he had the intention to kill, the sword would have pierced Tsuzuramaru’s heart by now. The match has come to an end, and Saneaki asks if Tsuzuramaru is satisfied now. Tsuzuramaru quietly admits defeat, though he’s visibly bitter. Saneaki puts his sword away upon hearing this, and the tension in the air finally melts away.

Worried about both Tsuzuramaru and Saneaki, Kayo quickly runs up to them and asks if they’re alright. Fortunately, it appears that both of them are uninjured. Tsuzuramaru lets out a sad laugh as he accepts his loss. People have been saying that Saneaki is a strong winner candidate in the tournament, and now Tsuzuramaru can see how powerful he really is. Saneaki instantly falls silent upon hearing this, while Tsuzuramaru continues to explain that he came here in the hope of having a match. He wanted to see Saneaki’s abilities through a sword match no matter what, and Saneaki turns out to be even stronger than he expected. However, this also makes it harder for Tsuzuramaru to understand him. Why doesn’t he want to help Kayo? Why is he refusing to draw his sword? It’d be different if he’s using his sword to kill or do terrible things, but there’s nothing wrong in helping others.

After some silence, Saneaki lets out a heavy sigh and answers that Tsuzuramaru is right—admitting that he was being a bit too obstinate. The ronin used low tricks to take over the dojo, and he won’t even need to use his sword to deal with them. Saneaki then turns to Kayo and says that she might think of him as a shallow opportunist, but he wants her to allow him to help. When Kayo asks if it’s really alright, Saneaki admits that he’s been acting all stubborn after Munenori’s visit. He feels bad for showing a pathetic side in front of her, but of course she doesn’t find him pathetic at all. If anything, the fact that he’s willing to help is already enough to make her happy. At the same time, Tsuzuramaru is really glad for Kayo. When she thanks him for helping, he simply says that she doesn’t have to thank him.

Instead, Tsuzuramaru asks Kayo to go to the dojo and relay the good news to Omatsu and the teacher. Before he can finish his sentence, however, his stomach suddenly lets out a loud, sad growl LOL. Kayo’s eyes widen in surprise as she stares at Tsuzuramaru in silence, and he apologizes saying he hasn’t eaten anything since morning. He’s so hungry that he can’t even move anymore, and so the thought of having to walk down the mountains depresses him. (((壊゚∀゚)))ァヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャ Kayo finds it unbelievable that he completely forgot about his hunger up until now, just because he wanted to have a match with Saneaki. Saneaki is just as surprised to hear this, because Tsuzuramaru had an impressive force despite his empty stomach. (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

As Kayo tries to hold back her laughter, Saneaki asks them to wait and goes into his hut. After a while, he comes back with some rice balls for Tsuzuramaru. He only has lunch leftovers, but Tsuzuramaru can have them. Tsuzuramaru is obviously delighted, and he happily thanks Saneaki for the rice balls. He thought he would end up fainting somewhere in the mountains, so he feels really grateful for the food. Tsuzuramaru starts wolfing them down immediately after, while Saneaki asks Kayo to take him to the dojo. Before they leave, Saneaki also states that he’s going to help Kayo under one condition. She nods saying she’s aware of that, and she promises to pay him even if might not be much.

However, Saneaki refuses to accept payment. Taking money from acquaintances would leave a terrible aftertaste for him, so he simply wants Kayo to promise that she won’t tell anyone about his stay here in the mountains. If she can make that promise, then he’ll help her in return. Once Kayo agrees to keep his location a secret, Saneaki also asks Tsuzuramaru to do the same. Tsuzuramaru nods saying Saneaki has agreed to help Kayo and even gave him some rice balls, so he gladly promises that he won’t tell anyone. Saneaki shows a faint smiles as he thanks Tsuzuramaru, and Kayo notices that he looks relieved to hear their answer.

From there, Kayo takes Saneaki to the naginata dojo. Tsuzuramaru actually wanted to accompany them until the end, but then he remembered that he was supposed to meet up with someone… so he ended up leaving in a rush. Before they leave the mountains, Tsuzuramaru used Hayato to deliver letters to Omatsu and the teacher. Thanks to this, they’re already waiting in front of the dojo by the time Kayo and Saneaki arrive. She then introduces him as Kuroba Saneaki, explaining that she made quite a forceful request for him to help taking the dojo back. Here, Omatsu’s expression suddenly changes… and she quietly repeats his name with a rather questionable look in her eyes.

On the other hand, the teacher is really grateful to Saneaki. She actually feels bad though. As Kayo and Omatsu’s teacher, she was supposed to take responsibility for what happened… but she ends up relying on him instead. Saneaki answers that Kayo has told him about the situation. He has his own reason for accepting Kayo’s request, and so he asks the teacher not to worry about that. Noticing that Omatsu has turned really pale, Kayo grows worried and asks if she’s feeling unwell. However, Omatsu puts on a smile and says that she’s just a bit scared to see the ronin again. Kayo reassures her that everything will be just fine. They have Saneaki with them, and she can guarantee his strength. Omatsu nods, but Kayo notices that she still looks rather disturbed.

As for the ronin, the teacher says they should be inside. She then leaves the rest in Saneaki’s hands, and he lightly nods before entering the dojo—with the rest of them hastily following him. The ronin are clearly not pleased to have visitors, but they start laughing upon seeing the teacher. When they mockingly ask if she’s here to challenge them and take her dojo back, Saneaki answers that they’re right. However, they’re going to face him instead. The ronin find it very pathetic of the teacher to call someone else for help, and they believe a scrawny man like Saneaki won’t stand a chance against them. Saneaki calmly replies that they’ll figure it out once they cross swords, and he doesn’t mind the order—they can decide which one of them is going to go first.

Right after saying this, Saneaki goes to take a wooden sword from the wall. Similarly to before, the ronin are clearly planning to use dirty tricks. In exchange of accepting his challenge, they’re going to determine the rules of the match. Kayo immediately notices that the two ronin are planning to fight him at the same time, but she believes that he’ll be alright. Even if they attack him at once, they will never win against him. Normally Kayo would panic in this kind of situation, but she doesn’t feel agitated at all. It’s as if Saneaki’s swordsmanship has captured her heart, giving her the faith that victory will definitely be his. Saneaki says he doesn’t mind going with their rules. He already heard about them from Kayo, and so he knows that it’s their style to gang up on a single opponent. They can come and attack him anytime.

Unimpressed by Saneaki’s confidence, the two ronin start the match by charging in at the same time. He remains calm as he blocks their hits, and he strikes back immediately after. As one of the ronin parries his sword, the other one sneaks behind his back and prepares to attack from there. Kayo panics upon seeing this, but she never gets the chance to warn him. Before she could even say anything, his sword swings to the side and hits the second ronin on the ribs. The first ronin curses and takes another attempt to attack, but he proves to be too slow for Saneaki. As Saneaki turns around and slashes him, the ronin receives a heavy blow to the stomach and instantly collapses. For Kayo, everything seems to happen in the blink of an eye. Before she knew it, the two ronin are already lying on the dojo floor. At the same time, Kayo finds herself getting more and more attracted to Saneaki’s swordplay.

Following Saneaki’s overwhelming victory, everyone in the dojo loses all words. It’s clearly the end of the match, and so he asks the ronin to give up. However, one of them suddenly gets up, grabs Kayo’s arm, and yanks her to his side. None of them saw this coming, so even the teacher and Saneaki are taken by surprise. The ronin then puts his wooden sword against Kayo’s throat, demanding Saneaki to throw his weapon away if he values her life. He calls his friend to get up as well, and the other ronin groans as he pulls himself up and takes his stance. When the first ronin once again warns him to drop his weapon, Saneaki has no choice but to agree for Kayo’s sake. However, he also makes it clear that this will be his last time dealing with them.

Despair fills Kayo as Saneaki’s wooden sword slides off his hand and drops onto the floor. The ronin are obviously satisfied, and the first ronin immediately tells his friend to attack Saneaki. As the second ronin aims his sword towards Saneaki’s head, Kayo holds her breath and closes her eyes… but the scream she hears the next moment doesn’t belong to Saneaki. It comes from the second ronin instead. When Kayo opens her eyes again, she learns that Saneaki has caught the second ronin’s arm—squeezing it so hard that the latter is crying out in pain. The first ronin panics and tells him to let go, reminding him that Kayo is still in their hands. Saneaki quietly releases the second ronin, but he also frowns saying they have a lot of demands.

The second ronin tries to attack again now that he’s free, but it won’t change the fact that he’s just too slow. After dodging the ronin’s sword, Saneaki calmly sweeps his legs from below. Kayo watches as the ronin flies headfirst into the tool storage, and he’s not moving anymore after the crash. The first ronin is obviously pissed to see this, even more so because Saneaki isn’t using any weapons. However, Saneaki simply says that life would be much easier if they can solve things without using a sword—like what he just did. Back to the first ronin, Saneaki asks what he’s going to do now. Does he still want to continue? Here, Kayo notices that his eyes look terribly cold and dreadful—so much that she trembles in fear. Kayo finds it hard to breathe. The man standing in front of her is undoubtedly Saneaki, and yet he looks like a different, terrifying figure.

Knowing that he has no chance of winning, the first ronin finally lets go of Kayo, grabs his unconscious friend, and dash out of the dojo. It takes a while before Kayo realizes that they’ve successfully taken the dojo back. She can feel herself losing strength, but she also knows that it’s not only because of the relief. Even though Saneaki also has the ability to defeat his opponents without a weapon, the first thing that comes to Kayo’s mind is still his fluid and magnificent swordsmanship. It really led her to accept the fact that she was seeing the abilities of a person who bears the title of Master Swordsman.

However, Saneaki’s cold gaze from earlier is bothering Kayo too. He looked like he could shoot someone dead with his eyes, and she can’t shake it off her mind. Saneaki soon comes over to ask if Kayo is alright. He’s gently smiling at her, and she can no longer sense that terrifying presence from him. After reassuring him that she’s fine, she asks if they really managed to retake the dojo. He nods saying there’s no need to worry anymore, and it’s only then that she can truly feel relieved.

After that, Kayo and the teacher thank Saneaki for helping them. Kayo feels really happy, both because they managed to retake the dojo and because Saneaki’s swordsmanship remains fresh in her mind. On the other hand, he looks rather uncomfortable and goes to pick up the dojo’s signboard instead. When the teacher says that she could never thank him enough, Saneaki reminds her that he was only helping Kayo due to a certain reason… and so he asks her not to worry about that. However, Kayo replies that it still makes her happy. She thought she wouldn’t be able to train at the dojo anymore, but then he came to help them.

Kayo also tells Saneaki that his fighting style is truly wonderful. Aside from his swordplay, she finds his taijutsu impressive as well. His movements were so light and eloquent, and she has burned them into her memory. Despite how she may appear, Kayo is also a person who wields a blade… so she gets all excited after seeing the way Saneaki handles his sword. Upon hearing this, Saneaki gives Kayo a troubled smile and puts the dojo signboard back to its place. Now that the dojo has returned to normal, both Kayo and Omatsu can continue their naginata training again.

However, Kayo soon notices that Omatsu is gone. The teacher didn’t realize this either, and Kayo recalls that Omatsu didn’t seem to be feeling well. Maybe she went home because she didn’t want to cause any problems for them. The teacher actually wanted Omatsu to thank Saneaki as well, but Saneaki says they don’t have to do that. He was simply doing his job, and now it’s time for him to take his leave. Kayo can either thank Saneaki for today; ask him to allow her to show he gratitude next time; praise his abilities as a samurai; or say it’s really unfortunate that he wants to abandon the path of sword despite his strength. Either way, Saneaki will refuse to take a reward. He didn’t help Kayo because he wanted to be rewarded, and he already asked her to do something important in return. Even if you pick the last option, Saneaki knows that Kayo is purely praising his strength… and he thanks her for that.

For the last time, Kayo deeply bows her head to thank Saneaki. He gives her a light nod in return, then he turns around and eaves. As she watches his back walking away, she can’t help but wonder why he wants to abandon his sword despite his impressive strength. At the same time, she also finds it strange how she keeps thinking about him lately. Even after Saneaki’s back disappears from her sight, Kayo quietly stands in front of the dojo for a while.

Upon reaching the bridge, Saneaki mutters that Kayo is a strange person. It’s been so long since the last time he received such a pure and sincere praise for his swordsmanship. Over the last decade, he’s never seen a person who truly seeks his swordsmanship from their heart—not because of fear or calculations. Whenever he swings his sword, Saneaki is always followed by the thought of his blood-scented sin… but today, he fills the satisfaction of fighting for someone. It’s a sensation he hasn’t felt in a really long time, so it feels nostalgic to him. In fact, the only time when he had this feeling was during his childhood. Back then, he received his current sword, Magoroku Kanemoto, from the person who saved his life. That person told him to become a fine samurai. Right now, he can only wonder when his pure admiration for the path of sword became warped.

Back when Saneaki was about 12, a recruiter sent him to work for a merchant family. He had no parents, so work was his only choice to survive. He worked really hard without getting much sleep, even enduring the scorching heat of summer and the coldness of winter that froze his fingertips. No matter how hard his task was, it never bothered him. What did bother him, however, was the way people look at him. From his appearance, it’s pretty obvious that Saneaki has the blood of a foreigner running through his veins… and it attracts attention. Some people even spread cruel rumors about him, calling him a youkai or a monster.

For the young boys who were doing labor work like him, Saneaki’s appearance was an outlet for their anger—partly because they were jealous of his skills with the sword. He received nasty harassment and violence, but no matter how badly they treated him… he always told himself not to hate them. When he was small, his mother taught him to hate the sin—not the person committing it. Instead, he would hold onto the cross his mother left for him and offer a prayer to God. He believed that hating others is a sin, and those who are sinful will receive punishment. If he keeps praying and walk on the right path, he will surely be saved one day… and he will surely be happy.

until a certain incident happened.

Back in the present, Saneaki quietly winces. Habakitsuki soon pops out to ask why he’s spacing out, but he only tells her to shut up. It all happened in the past, so he’s not supposed to recall it after all this time. Besides, he doesn’t want to these sinful memories to erase the transient comfort given to him by Kayo.

Meanwhile, Choushichirou is hiding in a ruins with Asakura, Tsuzumi, and Nanae. He’s bored because he can’t play outside, but Asakura asks him to be patient for now. By now Tsuzumi has successfully made a pact with Juzumaru as well, and Choushichirou is wishing for him to gain the power to seal youkai soon. As Nanae takes Choushichirou to play in another room, Asakura informs Tsuzumi that their preparations are complete. All that’s left for them is to find the place where they can see Tadanaga again.


Chapter 3

At night, Kayo has a dream of a red river surrounded by spider lilies. There are countless lanterns floating on the water, with their faint lights swaying in the fog. The heavy air lingers and seeps into her skin, as if it’s eroding her body to down the core. There’s no sound, no scent, no warmth. Only a chill is crawling up her spine, causing her to entire body to shiver. She doesn’t know where she is. When she glances around, she can see shadows appearing one by one—gradually increasing in number. She gasps in shock upon realizing that the shadows are actually youkai. From the other side of the red river, countless youkai are coming to where she is.

As Kayo turns around in a panic, she sees five doors behind her back. The youkai are trying to go outside through these doors, and she immediately realizes that what lies on the other side is Utsushiyo. Or rather, Hinomoto—the land she lives in. If they manage to get to the other side, the youkai will definitely destroy everything in Hinomoto. For a moment, Kayo believes that everything will be fine—because the doors are closed. Even if the youkai are flooding the doors, they will remain closed forever. Unfortunately, the relief only lasts for a very short time. When she lifts her head again, she notices that one of the doors has been slightly opened. Someone is trying to open it from the other side.

Kayo is too shocked to let out a scream. She quickly rushes over and holds the door with her body, trying to stop it from opening. Sadly, she’s not strong enough to close the door by herself… and things only get worse when another doors starts opening up as well. She watches in horror as the door eventually opens, and all the youkai are flooding into Hinomoto at once. The next thing she sees is the familiar view of Edo, wrapped in chaos and filled with the agonizing cries of people. The strong samurai, the friendly man from the fishery, the kind lady in the row house… the people she knows are being swallowed by youkai. Then a horrifying realization suddenly hits her. Her father is still in their restaurant.

Kayo dashes through the streets of Edo as the youkai continue destroying everything, and somehow she manages to reach her house safely. When she finds her father inside, she instantly gets taken over by her emotions and runs up to hug him. She knows that they have to escape, but she can’t seem to stop herself from crying like a kid. He asks her to calm down, but she desperately explains that they have to close the door as quickly as possible. If they do it now, they should be able to make it in time. She actually doesn’t know what she’s talking about either. Her father gently hugs her and rubs her back, then he slowly opens his mouth to say: “…it’s useless…”

Kayo is surprised and lifts her head, only to find out that her father is no longer there. Instead, she finds a super handsome long-haired and good-looking man in front of her. He states that he is Marebito, and he asks if she’s the sacrifice. Kayo is frozen in fear. Marebito is the god of Tokoyo, and he has crossed over to this world through the opened door. It would be meaningless to close the door now, and Hinomoto will be swallowed by Tokoyo. The view soon changes back to the red river, which has made its way onto her feet. She deeply regrets everything, knowing that Marebito should never be summoned… and the doors should never be opened. Marebito’s lips curl up into a smile as he tells Kayo to feel her own foolishness, and then everything turns red.

When Kayo gets up from her bed and opens her eyes, she finds herself in her room. From outside, she can hear lively voices on the street. It takes quite a while before she realizes that she had a horrible nightmare, and she wonders why she had such a dream. The last time she heard the word “Marebito” was during the wedding parade, and the dream gives her a strange feeling. What was that scenery she saw, with the five doors and the red river? …and why did Marebito come to this world? Marebito and Tokoyo swallowed the entirety of Hinomoto in her dream, and it looked like a scenery from hell. Kayo tells herself to forget about the dream though. She wants to feel relieved by seeing her father, so she quickly gets changed and leaves her room. Edo is just as lively as usual today, perfect for the season of the tournament. Thanks to the everyone’s high spirits, it doesn’t take long for Kayo to completely forget about the dream.

Some time has passed since Saneaki helped them to retake the dojo. As usual, Kayo finds the time to train when the restaurant isn’t packed with customers. The teacher notes that her regular training is starting to bear fruit, and that her swordsmanship has improved a lot. She previously mentioned that Kayo’s fighting style changed because she met a good person, but now she can tell that it was Saneaki who gave her the influence. Kayo blushes as she admits this, though she wonders why the teacher knows about that. Could it be that her fighting style is starting to resemble Saneaki’s?

However, the teacher is a bit concerned about Omatsu. Kayo didn’t notice since Omatsu is training quite far away from where she is, but there’s clearly something wrong with her. Every single swing of Omatsu’s naginata seems to contain killing intent, and Kayo has never seen her like that before. At first the teacher thought Omatsu might be desperate to improve because of the dojo-yaburi incident, but her condition is just too strange for that to be the reason. The teacher is wondering if Kayo knows anything regarding this issue, but sadly she’s just as clueless.

Worried about her best friend, Kayo tells the teacher that she’s going to talk to Omatsu. Kayo then walks up to Omatsu and asks her to take a break, but Omatsu doesn’t seem to hear her. She keeps on swinging her naginata, repeatedly muttering that she needs to become stronger. It’s only until Kayo calls her again that Omatsu snaps out of it, then she quickly puts on a smile and asks if Kayo needs something from her. Kayo says she’s just worried because Omatsu seems to be training too hard, but when she asks if Omatsu is alright… Omatsu flatly answers that she’s fine. Noticing that Kayo seems surprised, Omatsu apologizes for her curt response. The dojo-yaburi incident made her realize that she’s powerless, and it scared her. It reminded her of the pain of losing someone important.

Kayo is taken aback to hear this, because it’s as if Omatsu is implying that she lost someone important in the past. Omatsu smiles saying that’s why she wants to be strong enough to protect others, but Kayo only gives her a reluctant nod in return. Kayo gets the feeling that Omatsu is hiding something from her. While she won’t force Omatsu to say it, somehow… it scares her. After putting her naginata down, Omatsu asks if she can raise a few questions about the man Kayo brought to retake the dojo. When Kayo asks if she’s talking about Saneaki, Omatsu nods and asks about where he lives. Kayo is clearly surprised. Why would Omatsu want to know about Saneaki? Omatsu only says that it’s very important to her, so if Kayo knows Saneaki’s location… she wants Kayo to share it with her.

However, Kayo already promised Saneaki that she won’t reveal his location to anyone. Even if Omatsu is her best friend, she just can’t break that promise. Kayo apologizes and explains that she met Saneaki just because he helped her before. They’re actually not that close, so she doesn’t know where he is right now. Omatsu’s expression turns grim upon hearing this, but she quickly puts on a smile when Kayo apologizes again—assuring Kayo that it’s alright. After thanking Kayo for the explanation, Omatsu says they should return to practice and ends the conversation. She then picks up her naginata again and starts swinging it with a serious expression. On the other hand, Kayo doesn’t know what she should do about the change in her best friend.

In the end, Omatsu remains strange until practice ends. Even when they part ways, Kayo notices that she doesn’t look too well. This leaves Kayo feeling really concerned, so she’s planning to check up on Omatsu again tomorrow. Not too long after leaving the dojo, Kayo runs into Munenori on the street. She finds this strange since he’s not a person whom she can meet so easily in town, but apparently he’s been searching for her. Munenori then asks if Kayo has some time to talk, and he takes her to a quiet place so they won’t attract attention. Once they’re alone, Munenori explains that he actually needs Kayo’s help with a certain issue. She wonders if the shogunate needs her as Hisahime’s substitute again, but he says that’s not the reason. Instead, he wants her to help convincing Saneaki to work for the shogunate.

Noticing that Kayo is shocked, Munenori says he’s well aware that he’s not supposed to ask her for help. However, the shogunate just can’t allow such a strong samurai to walk away. Kayo doesn’t get why they want her help though. Saneaki has made it clear that he has no intentions to serve the shogunate, so she doesn’t think he’d listen to her. That being said, Munenori points out that Saneaki took his sword to help Kayo not too long ago. He received a report that based on Kayo’s request, Saneaki chased away a pair of ronin who have been thrashing various dojo in this vicinity.

Of course Kayo is surprised to hear this, and it also makes her realize that Munenori’s subordinates might have seen what happened at the dojo. It’s the same as how they kept an eye on her before she agreed to help with the wedding parade, so maybe she really can’t hide anything from the shogunate. Munenori is certain that the Saneaki he knows would never accept that sort of request, but in reality… he actually did help Kayo. This leads Munenori to believe that Saneaki took action because Kayo needed his help, so she might be able to convince him to work for the shogunate as well.

Kayo answers that she feels honored to have the shogunate seeking for her help, but she’s pretty sure she won’t be able to convince Saneaki. He rejected her request too at first, and it was thanks to Tsuzuramaru that he somehow ended up agreeing. Munenori is about to argue, but Kayo adds that Saneaki agreed to help because that would be the only time he’d ever help her. That, and because the match didn’t use real swords. Serving the shogunate, however, is an entirely different issue, so it would be extremely difficult to convince him to work for them.

After a brief silence, Munenori says he understands Kayo’s argument. He was actually hoping that Kayo could help them, so the shogunate will be able to reach mutual understanding with Saneaki through a safe and peaceful way. However, Kayo is taken aback upon hearing Munenori’s words. From the way he puts it, it sounds like the shogunate might resort to methods that are neither safe nor peaceful. Munenori apologizes for taking Kayo’s time, then he takes his leave and walks off before she could stop him. She’s not sure about what to do, but somehow she has a bad feeling about this.

That night, Kayo is sighing at home. Her father is worried since she looks depressed, not to mention she’s not eating her dinner either. She quickly assures him that she’s fine, and that she only has something on her mind. While she doesn’t want her father to worry, what Munenori said at noon is really bothering her. She doesn’t think Munenori would do something cruel, but if the shogunate really can’t afford to give up on Saneaki… they might have no other choice. Kayo wonders if Munenori wanted to avoid this outcome, which is why he went to town just to ask for her help. In that case, Saneaki’s life might be in danger. After thinking about this for a while, Kayo decides to inform Saneaki about this. It’s about the only thing she can do for him, but he has saved her life before… and she doesn’t want him to be in danger. Tomorrow, she’s going to visit his hut in the morning.

The next day, Kayo leaves her house at an early hour and heads straight for the mountains—telling her father that she’s going to fetch some vegetables for the restaurant. As she walks through the town with quick steps, a shadow suddenly flashes right in front of her. The next thing she knows is that Enishi has appeared out of nowhere, laughing and apologizing for surprising her. Despite the initial shock, Kayo is happy to see Enishi again. It’s been quite a while since their journey ended, and she never thought she’d run into him on the street. However, Kayo immediately reminds herself to rush to Saneaki’s hut. She then apologizes to Enishi and says that she’s in a hurry, but she tells him that the restaurant down the street is her house.

Kayo is about to ask Enishi to drop by when he has the time, but to her surprise… Enishi sighs saying he’s jealous that she wants to see Saneaki that much. In fact, he’s so jealous that he wants to kidnap her. This is actually a trap, and Kayo walks right into it the moment she asks why Enishi knows that she’s going to see Saneaki. Enishi then decides to get straight to the point, and he asks Kayo to take him to Saneaki’s place. When she asks for the reason, he answers that Munenori asked him to do it. Now he has to bring Saneaki along with him. Since Kayo is clearly confused, Enishi reveals that he’s actually working for the shogunate—that’s how he got this task from Munenori. The moment she hears this, Kayo gets the feeling that Enishi might be the one who reported the dojo-yaburi incident to Munenori. Which would mean that he’s been keeping an eye on her all this time.

Once again, Enishi asks Kayo to take him along with her. He’s cheerfully smiling at her, just like he always did during their journey, but somehow she can see a shrewd glint in his eyes. He says he doesn’t want her to hate him, so he wants her to cooperate if it’s possible. However, she firmly refuses and apologizes. She promised that she won’t reveal Saneaki’s location to anyone, and she’s not going to break that promise. Enishi lightly nods saying he knows that too, so Kayo reluctantly points out that Munenori also knows about Saneaki’s hut. He could have asked Munenori instead of trying to get it out of her. Enishi admits that he can go and visit Saneaki by himself, but he wouldn’t be able to convince Saneaki that way… so he needs Kayo to come with him.

Enishi then proceeds to take Kayo’s arm with a graceful gesture. He’s still smiling, but she can feel chills running down her spine. After drawing closer to Kayo, Enishi whispers that he actually doesn’t want to trouble her… but this is his job. That’s why he wants her to take him to Saneaki’s place, and he asks her not to make him do anything that would cause her to cry. Kayo is shocked to hear this. Enishi is clearly implying that he might do something to her. Or even worse, her father’s restaurant. It’s exactly the same as when they asked her to participate in the wedding parade. The shogunate is using her restaurant and the people around her, just to get her to agree.

Unfortunately, Kayo knows that she won’t be able to win against the shogunate’s samurai. Enishi also confirms this by saying that she doesn’t have the right to refuse, though he gives her a rather insincere apology as well. He promises that he’ll explain everything to Saneaki, including how he threatened and forced her to obey. When Enishi once again tells her to lead him to Saneaki, Kayo can only apologize to Saneaki in her heart—she really doesn’t have a choice. As they make their way through the woods, Kayo keeps wondering if she can find a chance to get away from Enishi. Sadly, she never finds that chance. In the end, both of them arrive in front of Saneaki’s hut.

When Enishi cheerfully calls him, Saneaki quietly comes out of his hut. He takes a few seconds to glance at Kayo and Enishi, then he nods in understanding. Enishi is impressed to see this, and he asks if Saneaki has grasped the situation just by taking one look at them. In return, Saneaki answers that he’s not dumb enough to NOT understand what’s happening. Enishi laughs saying he probably doesn’t need to explain everything, but he makes it clear that Kayo is not at fault. He threatened and forced her to take him here, and so Kayo didn’t betray Saneaki. However, Kayo still feels guilty about this. Even if Enishi is defending her, it won’t change the fact that she broke her promise… and she quietly apologizes to Saneaki.

Saneaki doesn’t reply. Instead, he points out that Munenori knows about this place… so Enishi should be able to find him without dragging Kayo into this issue. Enishi answers that it’s because Munenori said he only has a rough idea of the location, but Saneaki can tell that he’s not telling the truth. Enishi has a lot of subordinates, and their number is more than enough to comb these small mountains with ease. Enishi eventually decides to be honest and admits that he’s doing this to prevent Saneaki from running away. Even if they surround his hut, there’s a high chance that he’ll fight his way to break through their siege. Upon hearing this, Saneaki immediately understands that Enishi is using Kayo as a bait—knowing that he wouldn’t be able to run away if they bring her along. Or for the lack of better words, a hostage.

As Kayo gasps in shock, Enishi continues that he used such a dirty trick just to see Saneaki. That’s why in return, he asks Saneaki not to flatly refuse. While Kayo can’t say anything in this situation, she obviously doesn’t want Saneaki to serve the shogunate. They’re threatening him, and she knows that he’ll only end up suffering if he agrees to work for them. In her heart, she’s desperately begging him to pay her no mind and refuse. She doesn’t want to trouble him any further. After some silence, Saneaki says that his answer remains same. No matter what they might say, he has no intentions of serving the shogunate. He’s going to abandon his sword, and it’s not going to change. However, Enishi completely rejects his argument. He will get Saneaki to come with him and work for the shogunate—even if Saneaki refuses.

At that very moment, the atmosphere around Enishi changes. He says that youkai are starting to appear even inside the town lately, and Saneaki should be aware of this too. The shogunate needs him. Saneaki quietly nods, but then answers that he’s not interested in protecting Edo… so Enishi should ask someone else instead. Enishi smiles upon hearing this, and he asks if that means Saneaki is going to abandon Edo despite having the power to protect it. At the same time, he puts one hand on Kayo’s shoulder—implying that he’s going to do to her if Saneaki refuses. This really scares Kayo, but she tells herself to endure it no matter what. She doesn’t want to shackle Saneaki down.

However, Saneaki seems greatly annoyed by Enishi’s not-so-subtle threat. He frowns and asks why the shogunate is always forcing their ways onto people like that. Not only to him, but even to Kayo as well. They did exactly the same thing for the wedding parade. As long as they can accomplish their “justice”, they couldn’t care less about anything else. Enishi instantly falls silent upon hearing this, and Kayo can tell that he’s a bit shaken. After letting go of her shoulder, he quietly takes a step forward. For a moment Kayo is confused, but then she notices that Enishi has a painful expression. That’s when she realizes that he actually didn’t want to threaten her either. He only resorted to this method because of his job, and he did everything to protect Edo. At the end of his emotional conflict, Enishi says that force is also necessary in order to accomplish justice… and then he draws his sword.

Kayo shuts her eyes in fear as Enishi lunges in to attack Saneaki, who swiftly pulls out his sword to block the hit. It’s like he’s saying that he already knows the flow of Enishi’s sword right from the beginning. The sound of blades clashing echoes in the air, and Kayo quickly moves away from them. Saneaki points out that the shogunate has Enishi, so they don’t need him to work for them. However, Enishi answers that he just can’t do it… and that’s exactly why he’s asking Saneaki to come with him. Their swords are gleaming as the blades clash against each other, repeatedly sending sharp sounds into the air. For Kayo, this is her second time watching her friends pointing their swords at each other. However, this duel is really different from the previous match with Tsuzuramaru. Both Saneaki and Enishi’s blades hold emotions that surpass words. As a person who’s learning the art of naginata, Kayo is well aware of the danger. If they make one wrong move, they might end up doing something they can never take back.

As the duel continues, Kayo gradually starts panicking. At this rate, one of them might get injured. Soon after that, Enishi praises Saneaki’s impressive strength—saying that it’s just as expected from a man who was chosen by one of the Five Heavenly Swords. However, Kayo is really surprised when Saneaki answers that the same goes to Enishi… which means Enishi is actually wielding one of the Five Heavenly Swords as well. It also leads Kayo to the realization that Saneaki and Enishi might have known each other for a long time. If that’s really the case, then this duel won’t end so easily. They’re not just driven by temporary emotions, but rather by something deeper—something that has taken root inside of them. Kayo can tell that they’ll stop only when the duel comes to an end, and that means one of them will have to go down.

Meanwhile, Enishi notices that Saneaki is only attacking to defend himself. Just as Kayo feared, Enishi then says that all he has to do is defeat Saneaki and drag the latter to see the shogun. Saneaki doesn’t answer, but Kayo knows that the next hit will hurt one of them… so she quickly runs up to them with all her might and jumps in to stop the duel by force. Both Saneaki and Enishi are shocked. Kayo closes her eyes as their blades swing towards her, but both of them manage to stop in time. She actually has some choices here: she can either stop Saneaki; stop Enishi; stop both of them; or thrust herself between them. The duel will end regardless of what she does, but there are important bits here if Kayo tells either Enishi or Saneaki to stop. Especially for Enishi, but more on that below.

If Kayo asks Saneaki to stop, he’ll manage to stop his sword just before it slashes her ribs. She then tells him to put his sword away, reminding him of what he previously told her—that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He’ll only end up suffering by doing this, and so she begs him not to take a choice that will end up hurting himself. For a moment, Saneaki only stares at Kayo—still with a surprised expression. Once he grasps the situation, he bows his head and apologizes to her. She also asks Enishi to put his sword away, because he’s supposed to negotiate with her as a hostage. Besides, she knows that Enishi doesn’t want either of them to get hurt.

If Kayo asks Enishi to stop, his sword will stop right above her head. He freezes in place due to the shock, while she loudly asks if he can’t be the one who protects Edo. Kayo believes that Enishi is strong enough to exterminate youkai. He also wields one of the Five Heavenly Swords, so she thinks he’s perfect for the job. That way, the shogunate won’t have to rely on Saneaki. Enishi sighs saying Kayo is so sharp, and he admits that he did become an ichibangatana once… but it didn’t work. Remember this, it will crush your soul later. She’s about to ask further, but Saneaki stops her. Upon seeing Enishi’s pained expression, she instantly figures out that she shouldn’t ask anything about this issue. Kayo then apologizes for going too far, though Enishi doesn’t think it’s her fault. He also apologizes to her in return.

In any case, Saneaki and Enishi put their swords back into their sheaths. Enishi puts on a sad, awkward smile as he admits that he didn’t want to involve Kayo this far into their issue. He decides to pull back for today, because if he makes a mistake and ends up slashing her by accident… he’d regret it for the rest of his life. Kayo notices that Saneaki’s expression turns tense the moment he hears this, though he remains silent. However, Enishi makes it clear that he’s not going to give up on Saneaki. Saneaki answers that he knows, and Enishi cheerfully says goodbye to Kayo. He asks her to eat something delicious with him next time, then he walks away and disappears—as if he melts away into the bamboo grove.

Once Enishi is gone, Kayo suddenly sways as her legs lose strength. When Saneaki asks if she’s okay, she apologizes saying her knees just started trembling. She didn’t realize this earlier due to her desperation to stop the duel, but upon recalling the force they were fighting with… she finds it unbelievable that she had the courage to jump in between them. Saneaki supports Kayo before she collapses though, and he points out that it’s because she did something reckless. Now that the fight is over, she must’ve lost her strength due to the relief. As Saneaki gently pats her back and tells her that everything is alright, Kayo wonders if he’s trying to make her feel at ease.

Kayo can either say she’s glad that Saneaki is unharmed; tell him she’s relieved that he didn’t end up slashing Enishi; apologize for interrupting their duel; or admit that she’s terrified. Either way, Saneaki is taken aback since Kayo is more concerned about him—along with his wish not to hurt anyone—than her own safety. However, he also asks her to never do something so dangerous ever again. He doesn’t want to hurt her by accident, and his heart nearly stopped when she jumped in between them.

From there, Saneaki continues stroking Kayo’s back for a while. As she gradually calms down, she starts feeling a complicated mix of guilt and regret as well. Kayo then apologizes for breaking her promise, but Saneaki answers that she didn’t do anything wrong. She only got dragged into this issue, and he should be the one apologizing for getting her involved. Just then Habakitsuki comes out to voice her agreement. She believes that it was all Saneaki’s fault, and she feels bad for Kayo. That being said, she doesn’t want him to listen to Tokugawa’s men either. Or rather, she doesn’t want him to use Ootenta. As a youkai, she finds Ootenta repulsive due to its power. She wants him to kill people with Magoroku Kanemoto instead, since it’s the sword she’s currently possessing.

Saneaki doesn’t respond, though this confuses Kayo since he’s being terribly silent. Habakitsuki continues that it’s unfortunate how the duel ended just like that. It’s been a while since she saw him fighting with all he’s got, and she asks if the samurai in him got all excited. Habakitsuki thought she’d be able to get some blood, so she was really looking forward to it—especially because she hasn’t drunk any blood for a while. She’s hoping that Saneaki would just slash Kayo instead, happily adding that the flesh of young girls are so soft. Saneaki snaps upon hearing this, and he raises his voice as he tells Habakitsuki to shut up. Kayo is obviously surprised, so he quickly apologizes and explains that it wasn’t directed at her.

This makes Kayo even more confused though, because Enishi already left and there’s no one else around them—it’s only the two of them here. As far as she can see, anyway. Habakitsuki laughs and asks if Kayo is that important to Saneaki, and she can see that he really does like Kayo. Saneaki only tells Habakitsuki to leave though, so she vanishes with a pout as usual. When Kayo gives him a questioning look, Saneaki once again apologize for raising his voice—saying that he didn’t mean to surprise her. He doesn’t explain further though, and silence falls between them. As she listens to the trees swaying, Kayo’s eyes eventually land on Saneaki’s sword. It’s the one he used during their Tokaido journey, and not the sword he wielded for his duel with Tsuzuramaru.

Kayo then asks if this sword isn’t one of the Five Heavenly Swords, and Saneaki nods saying it’s not—it’s Magoroku Kanemoto. Ootenta is stored somewhere in his hut, and he usually doesn’t bring it with him. In fact, he doesn’t even put it in a place where his eyes can see. When Kayo mentions the sword he used to fight Tsuzuramaru, Saneaki replies that she has a sharp observation. Just as she suspected, that sword is indeed Ootenta. As Kayo repeats its name, she gets the feeling that something is wrong. Saneaki received Ootenta after winning the tournament in Sunpu, and that image doesn’t match the current him. The man in front of her is now struggling to abandon his sword. Kayo wonders if something happened to Saneaki after he received Ootenta, but despite her curiosity… she can’t bring herself to ask.

After another long silence, Saneaki finally opens his mouth to admit that he has killed an innocent person in the past. That person jumped in front of his eyes, just like what Kayo did earlier. Unfortunately, Saneaki couldn’t stop his blade in time and he ended up cutting that person down. Kayo gasps upon hearing this, and Saneaki continues with a painful voice. If it’s a fight between samurai, dying at the end of the duel is something they can’t do anything about—because both parties walk on the path of sword. Alternatively, for criminals, they only have to pay for those crimes with their lives. Saneaki had this clear mindset in the past, but the person he cut down that day was a young girl who had no malice nor crime—just like Kayo. That’s why he doesn’t want to hurt anyone again.

Saneaki is visibly in pain as he mutters these words. It’s as if he’s coughing up blood, and Kayo can’t find any words to give him in return. A sword is a double-edge weapon. By holding and swinging it, one might also crush things they don’t want to hurt. Even though Saneaki is strong enough to obtain one of the Five Heavenly Swords, his sword has taken away a life he didn’t wish to kill. Kayo can only imagine how hard it must have hit him, and how much he has suffered ever since. Saneaki admits that when Kayo jumped in to stop them, he thought he’d end up cutting her down—similarly to what happened that day. Now that she has learned about his past, she feels terrible for reminding him of the accident. However, he asks her not to apologize. He believes that the one at fault—the one who’s sinful—is him.

Kayo doesn’t think so though. She argues that Saneaki tried to stop his blade, so it’s not like he killed the girl out of malice. He nods saying he was seized by the guilt of killing an innocent person, but even before the accident happened… he has killed people. He used to pursue criminals for work, tracking them down and taking their lives in the end. Based on his work contract, he has killed numerous criminals in the past. He never felt any guilt during those times, believing that it’s only obvious for them to pay for those crimes with their lives. For an instant, Kayo sees a dark, cold gleam in Saneaki’s eyes. It makes them look like the eyes of a killer, and it scares her. Even though she knows that it’s him, she can’t seem to stop herself from shivering. He also says that if he didn’t accidentally slash the girl that day, he would still be a killer right now. His hands are stained by sin, not the hands of the great Master Swordsman everyone admires—he’s only a murderer.

As Saneaki clenches his trembling fists, Kayo thinks about how he can kill anyone in Edo no matter who they might be. He can annihilate Enishi, Munenori, or even her if he wants to. The image of him pointing his cold blade against her appears in her mind. She knows she would never be able to escape if his sharp eyes pierce through her, but even so… she puts her hands on top of his and holds them. When he looks at her in confusion, she smiles and asks him not to call himself a murderer. During their Tokaido journey, he gave her comfort to ease her worries and risked his life to save her. She just can’t accept how he said that he’s nothing more than a murderer.

Saneaki seems dazed as he lifts his head, asking if Kayo isn’t scared of him. She answers that she’s not feel scared, because she knows how kind he really is. It’s his kindness that causes him to deeply regret what he’s done, even until today. He keeps repenting over the fact that he has taken someone’s life by accident, and that’s why he’s been trying to abandon the path of sword. Knowing all of this, Kayo isn’t scared of Saneaki at all. Saneaki quietly nods at Kayo in return, then he closes his eyes. His expression, which was filled with pain, shows a slight relief as he holds her hands back. From there, the two of them spend some time together in silence.

After a while, Saneaki says he has talked about his uninteresting past—apologizing to Kayo if it makes her upset. She doesn’t find it unpleasant at all though, and she thanks him for sharing it with her. Since Saneaki has told her a lot, Kayo then decides to ask for the reason he participated in this year’s tournament. She heard about this from Tsuzuramaru, but she can’t think of a reason why he would want to be an ichibangatana again. He nods saying he wasn’t planning to join the tournament, but in order to let go of Ootenta… he needs to find a new master for the sword.

Ootenta chose Saneaki because he became an ichibangatana. If Ootenta picks someone else who’s more powerful than he is, he will be free from his role as its wielder. Once he loses the power to seal youkai, the shogunate will stop chasing after him as well. When Kayo asks if he’s participating in the tournament to find someone who can defeat him, he nods and confirms this as true. The moment Kayo found out about his identity as Ootenta’s wielder, Saneaki learned that he can’t run from his duty. The people of Edo need the Five Heavenly Swords. He won’t be able to avoid that responsibility, until the day he hands Ootenta to someone else—someone who can use the sword like he does.

The moment she hears this, Kayo really feels that Saneaki is truly kind and earnest. He accepts what people normally would turn away from, and he continues doing it as well. He’s not only powerful with swords, as he also has a strong heart. Somehow, she finds it irritating to see him in a fragile state like this…though she doesn’t know why. Just then Kayo seems to notice something. When Saneaki asks if there’s something wrong, she answers that she picked up the scent of flowers growing around his hut. Out of curiosity, she then decides to raise a question.

Kayo: “Um… Who’s taking care of all the flowers around your hut?”
Saneaki: “Me.”
Kayo: !? ∑(゚д゚;ノ)ノ
Saneaki: “…is it strange? It seems like taking care of plants suits my personality.”

Nope. Not strange at all. It perfectly suits your image if you ask me.

Saneaki then goes to explain that plants answer the amount of effort put into taking care of them, and he finds it interesting. For Kayo, this only confirms her belief that he’s not a murderer. He’s really delicate, sincere, and devoted. That, and his kindness knows no bounds. Saneaki also tells Kayo that the morning glories just started blooming this morning, and he asks if she wants to see it. When she asks if it’s alright, he nods saying it’ll be unfortunate for the morning glories if he’s the only one who sees them blooming.

Following Saneaki, Kayo walks to the corner where the morning glories grow. She happily tells him that they have a beautiful pale blue color, reminding her of the clear morning sky. As Saneaki nods at her in return, Kayo is surprised to see him smiling. While she has seen him smiling a few times before, the smile he has right now is different—it’s truly a peaceful, gentle smile. She never knew that he can make such a soft expression. When Saneaki asks why she’s staring at his face, Kayo says it’s because his expression turns really gentle as he talks about the flowers. She can tell that he really loves taking care of them. He stutters out that he’s not aware of this himself, while she notices that his cheeks are slightly turning red.

||萌||ョ´∀`。)萌えぇ~↑

Saneaki mentions that in the past, Enishi totally laughed at him and said that the hobby doesn’t suit him. Kayo then asks if the two of them have known each other for a long time, and he nods saying there’s no need to hide it now. It all started when Enishi came to see his match in the tournament, and they’ve been exchanging words from time to time ever since. Kayo is surprised since they didn’t show this at all during the wedding parade, and Saneaki says it’s probably because Enishi wanted to conceal the fact that he’s actually working for the shogunate. Saneaki also wanted to keep his identity a secret, so both Enishi and him pretended not to know each other.

This makes Kayo realize that she still doesn’t know much about Saneaki. He doesn’t think she’ll find it fun even if she knows him more, but she answers that it’s not true. Today, she’s happy to learn about his love for flowers. After hearing this response, Saneaki can only give Kayo a troubled smile in return. He just told her about the painful memories from his past, so it’s definitely not a cheerful one… but even so, she can’t help but wish for him to have as much peace as possible. At the same time, Saneaki whispers that Kayo is a really straightforward person… and he’s a bit envious of that. As the flowers sway in the wind, his voice silently dissolves into the air.

Meanwhile, Asakura is still busy searching for the path to see Tadanaga. There are five paths to Yomi in Hinomoto: Yomotsu Hirasaka, Nirai Kanai, Koumadan, Fudaraku, and Rendaino. They have to find one of these paths in order to summon Marebito and ask him to resurrect Tadanaga. By now Choushichirou has gotten bored of otedama, and Nanae doesn’t seem to be feeling well either… but Asakura soon receives a report that they’ve found one of the paths—Koumadan. It’s located in the mountains of Edo, so Asakura commands everyone to head out immediately.


Chapter 4

Just a few minutes before Saneaki’s second match begins, he quietly stays in the waiting room—keeping both eyes closed. It seems like his opponent has entered the arena by now, and he can hear lively, excited cheers from the audience outside. Saneaki believes that in order to use a sword properly, one has to keep their heart at peace—as doubts and agitation will show through their swordsmanship. However, Enishi’s words are lingering in his mind. That day, Enishi said that if he makes a mistake and ends up slashing her by accident… he’d only regret it forever. It’s a sin that Saneaki has committed, and as Enishi said… he has to carry that sin for the rest of his life.

Saneaki’s only wish was to have a quiet life, without hurting people more than he’s done in the past. He was supposed to reflect on the sin he committed, and continue mourning for the life he has taken away. He has no doubts, and yet his heart is silently crying out. As he wonders about the reason, Kayo’s figure comes to his mind… along with the moment when she asked him not to call himself a murderer. He gasps in shock upon finding himself subconsciously whispering her name, and he quickly stands up—looking rather flustered at the same time. Before walking out of the waiting room, Saneaki closes his eyes again and quietly prays for protection. It’s about time for his second match to start.

Meanwhile, things have returned to normal in the naginata dojo, Ever since they took the dojo back, training has been going regularly again. It’s supposed to be a good thing, and yet Kayo’s naginata is visibly filled with doubts. Of course it’s partly because she’s concerned about Saneaki, but there’s also another reason. Omatsu has been taking a break from the dojo. During practice, Kayo wonders what Omatsu might be doing right now—sincerely hoping that her best friend isn’t sick. It doesn’t help that Omatsu was acting strange too before, and it was the last time they met.

Not too long after that, the teacher comes to note that Kayo’s blade has fallen into disorder. She knows it’s because Kayo is terribly worried about Omatsu though, and Kayo nods saying Omatsu has never left the dojo for such a long time before. She gets the feeling that something is wrong, and Omatsu’s strange behavior only made her even more concerned. The teacher reveals that she’s been worried as well, so she paid a visit to Omatsu’s house. However, she didn’t get to see Omatsu. She was received by an attendant instead, who told her that Omatsu caught a nasty epidemic.

Kayo is incredibly shocked to hear this. Even if they call a doctor, there’s no guarantee that they can get the medicine. She’s afraid that in the worst case, Omatsu might possibly die… but the teacher smiles and assures her that the symptoms aren’t serious. It’s just that Omatsu seems to need some time to regain her energy. Kayo feels a bit relieved, but she’s still worried about Omatsu’s health. Since it’s an epidemic, she knows that Omatsu would definitely refuse to be visited… so she eventually decides to buy something for Omatsu once practice ends.

After leaving the dojo, Kayo goes to see various shops in town. She doesn’t mind even if she can’t meet Omatsu, but at the very least… she wants to give Omatsu something nutritious to eat. Not too long after that, Kayo runs into a familiar figure on the street—Suzukake. The coincidental meeting clearly surprises both of them, but of course they’re happy to be able to see each other again. Suzukake then runs up to Kayo and asks what she’s doing here. The area has a lot of stores for remedies and herbal medicines, so he wonders if she’s feeling unwell. She answers that she’s healthy, but her friend has fallen sick… and so she’s looking for a get-well-soon gift.

While Suzukake feels sorry and offers to give Omatsu a medical check-up, Kayo thinks Omatsu probably already has a doctor handling her by now. She’s from a warrior family after all, so they surely can afford a doctor. As for the gift, Kayo says it’s just a selfish wish on her part. She’s really surprised when Suzukake decides to help her look for a good gift that can help Omatsu to recover faster, but thankfully accepts his company. However, Suzukake finds this a little strange. Ever since he came to Edo, he hasn’t heard about any epidemics—even though that kind of rumor usually spreads fast. He thinks it’s probably just because no one around him has contracted the disease yet, so he needs to prepare himself for it. Kayo gives him a nod in return, but somehow… she has a bad feeling about this. She continues to feel uneasy as they visit one store after another, checking out all sorts of medicines for sale.

After buying some herbal medicines, Suzukake mixes them into a nutritious remedy for Kayo. This makes her happy, as she believes that it’ll help Omatsu to recover. However, just as Kayo passes by the shrine… she suddenly hears voices arguing in the distance. At first she wonders if someone is having a fight, but then she recognizes one of the voices as Omatsu’s. Omatsu is supposed to be resting at home, so there’s no way she would be here at the shrine… and yet the voice really sounds like hers. Out of curiosity, Kayo decides to take a peek. She thinks it’s probably only an accidental resemblance, but she freezes in place upon seeing the people in the shrine grounds.

In front of the shrine, Kayo sees Omatsu arguing with a young man she doesn’t know. The man appears to be a samurai, and despite what her attendant said, Omatsu doesn’t look sick at all. She’s wearing her dojo hakama, while her face is red from anger. Omatsu grits her teeth saying “that man” is definitely the one, and the samurai—Taichi—answers that he’s not doubting her words. He’s just saying that it would be reckless to go alone, but she insists that she needs to do it no matter what. Kayo is both shocked and confused. She’s never seen Omatsu getting so angry before, and she can only wonder about the reason. Kayo tightly holds the bundle of remedy in her hands as she runs off from the shrine. She always thought of Omatsu as her closest friend, and yet Omatsu suddenly feels so far away now.

By the time Kayo realizes it, she’s running through the town with all her might. She still can’t understand what she just saw. The only thing she knows is that Omatsu didn’t catch an epidemic, though she has no idea why Omatsu is taking a break from the dojo. Just what is happening to Omatsu…? Eventually, Kayo stops running to catch her breath. No matter how many times she thinks about it, she just can’t figure out the reason. She remembers that Omatsu started acting weird right after the dojo-yaburi incident, but did something happen back then…? After all, they managed to take the dojo back safely. Kayo doesn’t know what she should do in this situation, and she calls out to Saneaki in her heart.

The next moment, Saneaki appears right in front of Kayo. She gets really startled when he calls her name, and spontaneously asks why he’s here. He responds to this by asking if it’s really THAT surprising for her to see him in town, so she quickly shakes her head and repeats her question. He answers that he’s on his way back from the tournament, which reminds her that he did have a match today. A lot has happened around her lately, and she completely forgot about that. Upon noticing Saneaki’s grim expression, Kayo asks if he won the match… and he confirms this with a quiet nod. It might be strange to feel down after a victory, but his objective is to find someone who can defeat him—to search for a new master for Ootenta. That’s why winning in the tournament isn’t exactly a good thing for him.

That aside, Saneaki asks if Kayo is on her way back after practice. She’s surprised that he can tell, but he points out that she’s carrying her naginata. She went to buy a gift for Omatsu right after practice, so she still has her equipments on. She clearly forgot about this though, and she feels embarrassed now that he pointed it out. Upon noticing the bundle in Kayo’s hands, Saneaki asks if it’s a medicine and if her father got sick… but she reluctantly shakes her head. Before Kayo can find any words to say, Saneaki asks if she wants to go for a walk. He can tell that something is troubling her, and he’s hoping that a walk will make her feel better. Knowing that thinking on her own won’t really change anything, Kayo decides to accept Saneaki’s invitation. Besides, being with him might help her heart to calm down.

From there, Kayo and Saneaki walk around the town without having any specific destination in mind. In contrary to the lively streets of Edo, there’s no conversation between them. He adjusts his walking pace to match her weary steps, and while she knows that he’s worried about her… she finds herself unable to start a conversation. Or rather, she has no idea what to talk about. After a while, they reach a small restaurant and Saneaki asks if Kayo wants to stop by. She was too distracted to realize it earlier, but it’s actually a dango restaurant. A young woman is standing in front of the building, attracting people to come over.

Saneaki then asks Kayo to wait, and he goes inside before she can stop him. Not too long after that, a waitress comes to serve a plate of delicious-looking dango for them. Since Kayo looks clearly confused, Saneaki asks her not to hold back and eat the dango if she doesn’t dislike them. He awkwardly explains that since she’s not telling him anything, it means he probably can’t help with her problem… so at least, he wants to do something to cheer her up. When Kayo asks if that’s why he bought some dango for her, Saneaki nods saying he remembered that she was so happy to eat sweets during their Tokaido journey.

This reminds Kayo that she did eat some uirou-mochi with everyone in Hakone, and she loved the sweet, delicious taste. The fact that Saneaki remembered what she likes through the journey makes her happy, and she finally smiles as she thanks him for the dango. In return, Saneaki tells Kayo that she looks better when she’s smiling like that. Upon noticing the affection in his eyes, she instantly blushes and lowers her gaze to the dango plate. At the same time, she can feel her heart racing—though she doesn’t know why. In any case, Saneaki asks Kayo to take her time and enjoy the dango. Once she calms down, she can tell him about her problem if she wants to.

Kayo nervously thanks Saneaki, and the two of them take a seat in front of the restaurant. The dango he bought for her are sweet and nice, making her feel a bit better by the time she’s done eating. Meanwhile, he’s quietly sipping a cup of tea beside her. After finishing up her dango, Kayo turns to Saneaki and asks what he usually does when something is troubling him. He answers that he’d close his eyes to chase evil thoughts away from his mind, but sadly she thinks it’d be difficult for her. Whenever she closes her eyes, she’d only get unnecessary thoughts instead. Saneaki replies that people have different ways of clearing their minds, and he asks if there are any moments when Kayo’s mind is free from obstructive thoughts.

Upon hearing this, Kayo realizes that she can focus the most when she’s swinging her naginata. During practice, her mind is free from any thoughts that might disturb her. What she saw at the shrine has been haunting her mind like a fog, but if she wields her naginata… she might be able to chase all the negative thoughts away. With that in mind, Kayo then says that she has a request for Saneaki. She actually wants to talk about her problem with him, but she can’t seem to gather her thoughts… so she asks him to watch her naginata practice for a while.

Saneaki blinks in surprise at Kayo’s request, so she explains that she wants to use her naginata to chase unnecessary thoughts away. She also mentions that she usually has a partner for training sessions, but said partner is exactly the source of this issue… so she can’t go and see her. After a short silence, Saneaki replies that he has no intentions of sparring thoughtlessly. However, he doesn’t mind watching over Kayo as she trains. The answer is more than enough for her. As she happily thanks him, he gives her a troubled smile in return—like he always does.

After leaving the restaurant, Saneaki takes Kayo to the outskirts of town. It’s a quiet place, so she doesn’t have to worry about people watching. Saneaki then asks Kayo to start training, while he’s going to watch over her from a distance. After thanking him, she takes a deep breath and wields her naginata firmly. She carefully copies the naginata form in her head, using it as a guidance for her movements. However, Kayo soon notices that Saneaki is closely observing her. His expression is more serious than she expected… and it makes her nervous. If he keeps looking at her like that, she’ll get overly conscious and her movements will turn awkward instead.

The main reason behind Kayo’s nervousness is because of Saneaki’s strength. He’s a Master Swordsman, an ichibangatana who holds one of the Five Heavenly Swords. While she was the one who asked him for help, having an ichibangatana watching her practice like this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just then Saneaki asks if Kayo has a moment, which really startles her. He points out that it’s probably out of habit, but she tends to put too much power into her right arm when charging in. She should be able to use her naginata even without exerting so much strength, so he asks her to focus more on circular movements. Rather than using power to control her weapon, she should think about the flow instead.

Kayo nervously nods, and she tries to follow the advice by relaxing her right arm… but Saneaki points out that she’s being even more tense than before. She apologizes and explains that the more she tries to do it, the more nervous she gets instead. He then changes his approach by telling her to think about controlling her naginata instead of swinging it around, but it proves to be a little difficult for her. Despite her attempt to follow his advice, she can’t seem to handle her naginata really well. He keeps trying to fix her form and asking her to let go of all the unnecessary tension in her body, but since it’s not going well… he eventually runs out of patience and walks up to her.

Saneaki then puts his large hands on top of Kayo’s, holding her naginata with her. She instantly freezes on the spot, but of course he doesn’t realize this at all. Instead, he asks her to loosen up a bit more… and she nervously agrees. It’s supposed to be a training session to chase obstructive thoughts away, and yet her heart is going out of control. ✿*,(*´◕ω◕`*)+✿.* As Kayo forces herself to be calm, Saneaki notes that her right arm has improved a bit. However, she’s still trying to swing her naginata with power. The tension from her shoulder is running down to her hips, and from there it goes all the way to her knees. If her legs are stiff, she won’t be able to perform agile footwork. He puts his hand on her shoulder while explaining, and she can feel herself getting more and more nervous.

Kayo stutters as she nods at Saneaki, promising to work a bit harder on it. He thinks it’s strange to “work harder” to relax, but he believes that she can grasp that sensation. When Saneaki asks Kayo to swing her naginata one more time, she instantly panics since he’s still holding her hands. She quickly tells him that she’ll try doing it on her own, so he can watch over her instead. Saneaki doesn’t seem convinced, but he quietly lets go and steps back. Kayo can finally breathe properly again, but while she feels relieved… she also feels a bit sad to have his warmth leaving her side. She quickly chases these thoughts away though. From there, Saneaki keeps Kayo company and watches over her practice for a while.

Later on, Kayo is back in the restaurant. Thanks to Saneaki, her worries have subsided a little. While she can’t wipe away her concern for Omatsu, at least she doesn’t look gloomy when she’s helping out in the restaurant. When she thinks about it, Kayo realizes that Saneaki is always helping her. He has helped her during the dojo-yaburi incident, and he did it again by helping her with naginata practice. She wants to do something to show her gratitude, so the fact that she can’t think up of anything makes her sad. Soon after that, her father comes out to talk to her. Today, the customers aren’t ordering as much tofu cuisine as he expected. Since they have too many tofu for dinner, he wants her to share the remaining tofu with their neighbors. This gives Kayo the idea of sharing it with Saneaki. She’s actually not sure if he likes tofu or not, but she decides to give it to him as a token of gratitude and apology.

When Kayo arrives at Saneaki’s hut, he asks why she came with a tofu in one hand. She awkwardly says that she’s sharing it with him, but since he’s squinting at the tofu bowl… she’s starting to wonder if she’s done something dumb. As the result, Kayo and Saneaki are silently staring at each other as they stand in front of his hut. After explaining about the extra tofu in her father’s restaurant, she asks if he doesn’t like them. Fortunately for her, he answers that he loves tofu and gratefully accepts it. He intently stares at the tofu as he takes the bowl from her, and the silence in the air makes her feel even more awkward.

In order to break the silence, Kayo asks if Saneaki cooks his own meals. He nods saying he’s the only one living in this hut, so it’s only obvious. She finds it impressive because he’s a man, not to mention he’s also a samurai… but he doesn’t think it’s unnatural for him to cook. If one travels a lot, they’ll have to prepare meals by themselves. Kayo still believes that it’s rather inconvenient for a man to cook for himself though, and this leads her to ask if she can cook something for Saneaki. His immediate response is this:

Saneaki: “………huh?” ( ゜A゜ )?
Kayo: “…n-nevermind. I’m sorry. I mean… I came here to show my gratitude and apology…”
Kayo: “I feel that giving you a tofu alone isn’t enough for that.”
Saneaki: “…………”
Saneaki: “……will you do it for me?” (*・・*)ポッ

♪゚+.o(*萌´д`从´д`萌*)o.+゚♪ ||萌||ョ´∀`。)萌えぇ~↑ 萌え━゚+。*(pq>ω<*)゚+。*━ええっ

Of course Kayo happily agrees and thanks Saneaki, feeling that his expression makes the question worth asking. Upon hearing this, he smiles and says that she’s a strange person. He’s the one who asked her to cook for him, so he doesn’t get why she’s thanking him instead. Kayo can either reply that she wanted to thank Saneaki; say that she wanted to apologize for breaking her promise; tell him that she’s happy to be able to help him; or admit that she did say something strange. Saneaki never blames Kayo though, as he thinks that he was the one who dragged her into his problem. He doesn’t think he deserves any gratitude either, but he’s still looking forward to eat her cooking.

After that, Saneaki allows Kayo into his hut. As Kayo nervously steps inside and heads straight for the kitchen, Habakitsuki comes out to note that Saneaki seems to really like Kayo. Saneaki only tells her to shut up though, clearly stating that he doesn’t have any ulterior motives. When Kayo turns around and asks if he said something, he quickly tells her that it’s nothing. Habakitsuki then reminds Saneaki that he was planning to travel north, and yet he’s staying in a place like this to flirt with Kayo instead. Again, he tells her to shut up—explaining that he can’t leave Edo until he can let go of Ootenta. Kayo is obviously confused, and she asks who Saneaki is talking to. He replies that he’s not talking to anyone despite how obvious it is, and this eventually causes Habakitsuki to run out of patience.

Even though Kayo can’t see her, Habakitsuki decides to show her presence through another method—by lifting the tofu bowl. Kayo’s eyes widen in surprise as the bowl floats into the air, while Saneaki is thrown into panic and quickly snatches the bowl. Ignoring his protest, Habakitsuki only teases him for getting all flustered and vanishes LOL. When Kayo reluctantly asks about what just happened, Saneaki apologizes and says that he thought it’d be for the best if he keeps quiet. He then tells her that his sword, Magoroku Kanemoto, is possessed by a youkai called Habakitsuki. After taking his sword, Saneaki tells Kayo that a sword has a part called “habaki”—the metal collar between the blade and the hand guard. Habakitsuki is a youkai who possesses that part, which is where the name comes from. Usually they can only be seen by the sword’s wielder, and sometimes by people who has the ability to sense supernatural beings.

After hearing Saneaki’s explanation, Kayo nods saying that’s why she can’t see Habakitsuki. He then asks if she’s not terrified, but she points out that he allows Habakitsuki to stay instead of getting rid of her… so she’s probably not a frightening youkai. While he’s not entirely sure about that, he can say with certainty that she’s incredibly noisy. ヽ(*´ー`*)ノ Saneaki frowns as he says this, and Kayo can’t help but laugh since its unusual for him to look so displeased. From his answer, she can tell that Habakitsuki isn’t a dangerous youkai. She thinks it would’ve be nice if she could see Habakitsuki too, though he won’t recommend that at all.

Kayo: “So what did Habaki-chan said?”
Saneaki: “Habaki-chan……?” (`・д´・ ;)

Putting the nickname aside, Saneaki tells Kayo that he was supposed to travel north in the near future. If he’s staying in Edo, he won’t be able to hide from Enishi and Munenori forever. Despite his initial plan, he continues to stay in Edo anyway… so Habakitsuki teased him about it. Saneaki lets out a sigh as he gives the tofu bowl to Kayo, and she finds the sight heartwarming somehow. Unfortunately, their peaceful time together doesn’t last for too long. Kayo is still chuckling when someone violently opens the door, causing her to flinch in shock. She wonders if it’s Enishi or Munenori again, but when she turns around… she finds someone unexpected instead. It’s her best friend—Omatsu.

When Kayo calls out to her in confusion, Omatsu doesn’t reply. She keeps her lips shut tight, holding her naginata as she glares straight at Saneaki. Kayo is taken aback. What is Omatsu doing here? …and why is she giving Saneaki such a hateful look? At the same time, Saneaki also recognizes Omatsu as Kayo’s friend. He tries asking what she might be doing here, but she answers this by telling him to brace himself. Before Kayo can figure anything out, Omatsu strikes and swings her naginata towards Saneaki. Luckily, Saneaki already took Magoroku Kanemoto out of its sheath when he explained about habaki to Kayo… and he swiftly uses it to block Omatsu’s attack.

Out of confusion, Kayo tries to stop them and asks what Omatsu is doing. It happened so suddenly, just like an ambush. Saneaki is looking at Omatsu after blocking her attack, while she’s giving him a ghastly expression in return. Immediately after, Taichi comes into the hut and draws his sword—stating that he’s assisting Omatsu due to a certain reason. As Taichi charges in, Saneaki knocks Omatsu’s naginata away and easily blocks his sword. He says he doesn’t know why they’re attacking him, but if they want to have a fight, they need to change locations first. Saneaki quickly dashes out of the door right after saying this, with both Taichi and Omatsu chasing after him.

However, Omatsu stops when Kayo calls out to her. She looks really sad as she turns around, apologizing for following Kayo. At first Kayo is confused, and it takes quite a while until she realizes that Omatsu was tailing her in order to reach Saneaki. When Kayo asks for the reason, Omatsu doesn’t answer and silently runs off. Kayo immediately chases after them, and she finds the three of them right outside the hut. After telling Saneaki to prepare himself, both Omatsu and Taichi attack at once. On the other hand, Saneaki remains calm. As he blocks Taichi’s blade, he moves half a step back to dodge Omatsu’s naginata. Just as he prepares to counter-attack, Kayo cries out his name from behind—desperately hoping to stop him from slashing both of them.

The next moment, Saneaki brings his sword down—as if he’s answering Kayo’s voice. He knocks Taichi away with one hit and points his reversed blade at Omatsu’s throat, warning her not to move. However, he also tells Omatsu that he didn’t cut Taichi—he only hit him with the back of his sword. Now that the battle has ended, Saneaki asks Omatsu to explain her reason for attacking him. Omatsu answers this by asking if Saneaki doesn’t realize it even after looking at her. Since Saneaki looks confused, Omatsu then reveals that she’s the younger sister of the woman he killed in Sunpu—shocking both Saneaki and Kayo. As Kayo tries to figure out the meaning behind Omatsu’s words, Saneaki’s past returns to her mind. He told her that he killed an innocent person in the past, and he called himself a murderer because of that.

Omatsu continues that Saneaki should remember it as well. It was the woman who died to protect the man he wanted to kill. Omatsu asks if Saneaki is going to play dumb, but he falls silent instead. At the same time, the realization slowly sinks in for Kayo… and she finally grasps the fact that the girl Saneaki killed by mistake is actually Omatsu’s older sister. Kayo can either ask them to say that it’s all a lie; beg Omatsu to stop; hope that it’s only a misunderstanding; or ask if Omatsu came here to avenge her sister. If Kayo begs her to stop, Omatsu will be shaken for a moment… but she pulls herself out of it. Either way, Kayo’s voice doesn’t reach anyone. Silence hangs in the air before Saneaki eventually asks if Omatsu is here to take blood revenge for her sister, and she firmly says yes.

Upon hearing Omatsu’s answer, Saneaki quietly puts his sword back into its sheath. He states that it was indeed him who killed her sister, so she can get her revenge now. Kayo’s heart sinks as Saneaki lowers his head without any resistance, as if he’s waiting to be beheaded. Omatsu snaps and asks if he’s doing that because he thinks she’s not serious, but he denies it. It’s because he believes that she has a valid right to take blood revenge, so he’s allowing her to avenge her sister’s death by killing him. Of course Kayo finds this impossible to accept, and she desperately asks Saneaki not to do it. However, Kayo soon notices that Saneaki somehow looks relieved as he stands in silence. He has accepted the sin he committed, and he’s offering his life to atone for that sin… but she wonders if it’s really the best option. Is this really the future he was wishing for?

Omatsu’s voice trembles as she lifts her naginata, shouting that this is to avenge her sister’s death. Kayo closes her eyes and begs for Omatsu to stop, but a sharp sound is heard as Omatsu brings her naginata down. However, she fails to swing it all the way down… and the blade stops right above Saneaki’s neck. The air trembles as Omatsu lets out a loud cry, breaking into tears as her naginata falls onto the ground. She’s been training all this time to kill the man who murdered her sister, so she doesn’t get why she can’t bring herself to do it. Omatsu sobs as she falls onto her knees, repeatedly apologizing to her sister. Kayo is at a loss for words. As silence returns to the woods around them, the only thing they can hear is Omatsu’s crying voice. Saneaki is standing still in front of this sight, looking at Omatsu in a daze.

26 thoughts on “Ken ga Kimi – Kuroba Saneaki

  1. Great review as always aaaaa but I swear everyone’s ken routes just keeps making me go ಥ_ಥ (not to mention, your foreboding words in Enishi’s upcoming route xDDD orz)

    • Enishi’s route makes me upset more than anything else in the game, I’m not even going to hide that LOL. I feel like the others’ Ken routes (even Sakyou’s) don’t hurt as much as his does, not to mention the irony and his extra voices are like Rejet’s way of rubbing salt into our wounds. You can look forward to that and cry with me. 8D

      • I will crai with you ಥ_ಥ everyone’s Ken route (the ones I’ve read, but ehh I’m pretty sure the others will be the same gut-wrenching ones) breaks my heart D’x but this is such a great gameeeee

  2. Ah,the kimi endings were quite nice…and sweet.mmhm. The kushimitama ending was sad…but both ken endings left a bittersweet feeling…since I have finally commented,I will probably go and comment on the others I have read too!

    • Wow, thanks for commenting so much! xD
      Pretty sure the ken endings aren’t meant to be happy LOL. There are a few exceptions, but most of them are sad like that. Even Saneaki’s Aramitama, as you said, is bittersweet. Sure he’s alive and kicking, but I’m not sure if you can call that a happy ending… he had to abandon his beliefs just to keep Kayo safe and she knows it too. At least the kimi endings make up for the pain though. :3c

      • Yes, it’s pretty good that the kimi endings make up for the sadness in the ken endings. Well, otherwise, i think there would be raging fans everywhere. But, i feel that for the ken endings, they could still find happiness…hm….

        • For Kayo, maybe… I don’t think Saneaki can truly be happy. As Kayo herself mentioned, it seems like something has broken inside Saneaki during that cave massacre. It’s like he ends up falling into the trap he’s been avoiding for so long, and it was because he knew it’s the only way to keep her safe. The “iron rust” smell is, most likely, the smell of blood. So to put it harshly, Saneaki ends up becoming a murderer again because of Kayo.

          • Yeah, for Saneaki, it would be extremely difficult for him to have a happy ken ending.(like Sakyou. Those feels—) Kei had one happy ken ending, so it is possible to have a happy ken ending…depends on the characters, really. The endings are really suitable for each of the characters.Such a great game!

  3. Thanks for the review/summary! Awww those kimi endings are so sweet but I can’t imagine Saneaki as a chef lol XD
    And you’re halfway done now! The last three are my favorites have fun playing them!

    • LOL he’s actually a pretty good cook, since he’s been living alone for so long and all. It’s just his taste in food is “uninteresting” according to Enishi, but I guess he fixed whatever flaw he had after training with Kayo’s father. 8D

      Also, thanks! it feels so long but I’m finally halfway done blogging this game. I’m actually a bit afraid to replay Enishi’s route, but it’s definitely going to be an enjoyable ride… (⊙ω⊙✿)

  4. I love Saneaki. He is such an interesting character. I think hes the second prettiest guy after Sakyo. Looking forward to Enishi now after the little teaser you mentioned in Saneaki’s. Man everyone’s Kens routes are making me cry.

    • Yeah, he’s just SO beautiful. No one ever mistakes him for a girl though, so I guess he’s beautiful in a manly way—unlike Sakyou LOL. I couldn’t help but drop the hints about Enishi because it’s scattered everywhere, even in Kei’s route… and even after 8 months, I am STILL upset about Enishi’s ken endings LOL. Now I want people to cry with me. *cackles*

  5. Pfft Rin-san, I don’t know if it’s just me who noticed but I love it when you squeal and include the guys blushing sprites in your posts.

    I hope you will continue to do so with the other routes as they are all so cute. Thank you so much as always for such well-informed posts.

    • Eh…?

      ………
      ……………
      …………………

      OMG you’re right I flailed over their blushes in every single route…
      They’re just so cute when they start blushing. _(:3」∠)_

      I’m currently taking a break to make a tears bucket prepare myself for Enishi’s route, but I’ll start sometime this week LOL. Thanks for reading and commenting too! :D

      • As I wait for your post on Enishi, I can see your emoticon gradually falling into deeper despair and is unsure whether to be amused or cry with you because agh, I apparently haven’t shed enough tears…

        /waits patiently for your post so I can cry just by reading it hahahaha sobs 😨😰

        • LMAO I’m sorry it’s taking so long. Since this is a replay after seeing his tragic endings, all the small things Enishi says are now stabbing me in the heart so badly that I have to take breaks… and it gets worse as I go further into his route. _(:3」∠)_

          I’m hoping to finish it soon so I can drag you guys to cry with me. Thanks for being so patient and understanding! ❤

  6. Kei the Tsundere blushing is cute. Sakyo blushing is a direct kokoro shot. Saneaki blushing…␟␏(ɲ˃ ˈ̫̮ ˂ɳ)␟␏ෆ WHAT IS THIS, OMOCHIKAERI. Anyway, this is such a great route! Ken endings are as heart wrenching as ever, and since you mentioned about the coming doom for Enishi, I decided to check him out and then… his Ken routes just… threw my heart off the building. IT’S SO SAD, even my most favourited character, Tsuzuramaru, can’t defeat him in terms of that sadness ಥ_ಥ Saneaki’s route was fresh air to me after Sakyo’s route…for many reasons. I love how he interacts with Kayo and he’s just super concerned about her. That and Habakitsuki is AWESOME.

    • LOL he’s really doomed, right? xD
      Actually, Tsuzuramaru doesn’t have a bad ending if you like that sort of stuff. The stuff involving *spoilers* I mean. Even if you don’t, his Ken endings still don’t hurt as much as Enishi’s… though I think that’s a part of Enishi’s charm. But yeah back to Saneaki’s route, we have some awesome ladies here. Kayo, Omatsu, and Habakitsuki are all amazing characters, but Omatsu especially shines in this route. She’s such a caring friend, I feel like she deserves more love. (人´∀`)☆゜’・:*

  7. First off I really want to thank you for posting such amazing summaries. I really want to play these games but I don’t know Japanese (though I’m learning!… or trying to anyway lol) so I’m really grateful you’re covering them so I can fangirl (and cry ಥ-ಥ) haha. I really enjoy your posts and always look forward to your next ones.

    I understand that Ken Ga Kimi is a very extensive (and very very beautiful) game so it’ll be a while before you finish posting all the routes (I’m simultaneously dreading and eagerly awaiting Enishi’s route), but I just wanted to ask if you’re planning to post Hana Awase’s Himeutsugi-hen after this (why is there so much despair D: ) or if you’re planning to take a well-deserved vacation. I’m anticipating a lot of agony so I’ll need to prepare properly (ie. get more ice cream ready). (Just kidding.) (Not really.) (._.)

    PS. I really feel like since I don’t really post comments I haven’t thanked you nearly as much as I should have. So: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU I’ll stop spamming now but really, THANKS :D

    PPS. Here’s a pick-me-upper since there is so much pain. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it made me tears of lol: http://38.media.tumblr.com/dad1fdcf795398bf20e720ea3d345553/tumblr_n80f1qX0WU1rsfufdo1_r1_400.gif #theentireplot #idontknowwhythisamusesme #stillsomanyfeelstho

    PPPS. I LOVE YOU!! (in a socially-acceptable way)

    TL;DR: Thank you! When are the Five (?) Brights coming to kill what remains of my heart? + see link above for I don’t even know ^^^

    • LMAO WHO MADE THAT GIF!? It’s so accurate it’s scary. (((壊゚∀゚)))ァヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャヒャ

      Thank you for commenting, I love you too for being so nice. ;w; ❤

      As for Hana Awase, I think I’m going to wait for Karakurenai / Utsutsu-hen to come out first before going back to Himeutsugi-hen. It’s mainly because there were a lot of things that really confused me, and after finishing the game I couldn’t exactly wrap up my thoughts LOL. Ken ga Kimi is quite a long project for me, but I don’t have any plans to take a vacation after that… so I’ll probably jump straight to another game. Work is taking over my life though, sometimes I wish work would calm down a bit so I can play more. _(:3」∠)_

      Oh, and thanks for the advice! I’ll make sure to stock up lots of ice cream before the despair hits. For real. :3c

  8. Hello ! (First post after so long…)

    Thanks as always for your detailed summaries (and drooling over blushing guys… hum hum.)
    I agree with Lily when she says you’re going to take a while before posting every route of Ken ga Kimi. Such a great game ! I hope you will keep the best ones for the end (Suzukake

    • Hello, thanks for commenting. :D
      Actually, I’ve stated my play order in the very first post. Suzukake will be second to last, while the last one will be Tsuzuramaru for plot-related reasons. It really is going to take a while as I can’t post 60-70k words per week, so I hope you’ll understand. ;_;

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