Episode 9: Sakamoto Ryoma’s assassination
The restoration of imperial rule, which is Ryoma’s earnest wish for ‘Japan’s rebirth’, comes into effect. This brings about the end of 260 years of history of the shogunate. On the other hand, Jin recalls how Miki had previously said that Sakamoto Ryoma died on his birthday, and realises that they are just barely a month away from the day of the assassination.
Ryoma’s assassination draws closer. Jin decides that he will make sure he saves Ryoma with his own hands, and sets off for Kyoto together with Saki and Saburi on 25 October. Their departure is observed by Misumi, the doctor who is still out to get even with Jin for the earlier humiliation he had suffered as a result of his failure to diagnose Nokaze’s original tumour. Meanwhile, Kyotaro is ordered by his superior to attack Ryoma in Kyoto. If Kyotaro defies orders, harm may come to Ei and Saki … …
Along the way, Jin, Saki and Saburi stop by the post-town of Maruko in Suruga Province to rest for the night. Jin gets anxious when he learns that it will take another 10 days to reach Kyoto, and wants to go ahead of them. Then, they unexpectedly encounter Kyotaro, who has come from a neighbouring post-town to find out if they are going to meet Ryoma. He had been told by his companions that Jin and his party were staying the night at Maruko. Jin and Saki hesistate, but Saburi unsuspectingly volunteers that they are going to Kyoto to treat a patient at Matsumoto’s request. Kyotaro in turn informs them that he is also heading there to deliver a missive.
The next morning, Kyotaro comes to see them just as they are about to set off. He tells Jin to take good care of Saki, and when Jin misinteprets it, he emphasises that he means for him to do so for the years to come. Although these words strike Jin and Saki as odd words, it does not occur to them that anything amiss and they take their leave. Unbeknownst to them, they are being followed by Kyotaro and his two companions.
At that moment, Ryoma is with Saigo and Okubo at the Satsuma residence in Kyoto. He has selected the members of the new government which will include representatives from Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, Echizen and the Imperial Court. Three circles appear to have been deliberately drawn on the list where a name should be. When Okubo demands to know if Tokugawa Yoshinobu is in the government and points out that the former shogun should take the reins of the interim government since he is the greatest lord of the realm, Ryoma agrees rather easily that the person represented by the three circles should be Yoshinobu. His own name is also conspicuously absent from the list because he intends to step back from politics and focus on Kaientai (formerly Kameyama Shachu).
Ryoma later confides in Higashi that he has had enough encounters with death and is through with running about to make Japan a country which his dead comrades as well as the armies of Choshu and the shogunate would want to be born in again. Higashi pledges to be Ryoma’s bodyguard forever. He discloses that he had wanted to fulfill the aspirations of his older brother, a loyalist who died before he could accomplish his goals. Then he had read Ryoma’s petition for the restoration of imperial rule, and thought, it might be good enough. This would be a country that his brother would surely want to be reborn in.
It is 10 November by the time Jin, Saki and Saburi arrive at Teradaya in Kyoto. They try to meet Ryoma as soon as they can, but have a hard time locating him despite searching the streets of Kyoto.
Back in Edo, the remaining doctors at Jinyudo suddenly find a large number of villagers crowding around the entrance of the clinic. Before long, a group of samurai arrives, demanding to know where Jin is. When Yamada announces that he is in charge of the production of penicillin in Jin’s absence, he is swiftly apprehended and taken away without any explanation. This incident has been instigated Misumi who appears to have engaged someone to produce counterfeit penicillin production certificates and then killed the man after that.
Then the day of Ryoma’s birthday, 15 November, comes. Jin and the others continue their desperate search for Ryoma, but it is to no avail. Just as he gives voice to his fears that things will come to an end today, they chance upon Higashi, who leads them to Ryoma’s room at a soy sauce shop called Omiya. However, they arrive to find it empty and Jin starts to worry that Ryoma might already be … … Ryoma appears from behind them at that moment. Filled with a mixture of joy and relief at the sight of Ryoma, Jin hurriedly sets about urging him to leave Kyoto.
That night, men from the Mimawari-gumi, which has received orders to assassinate Ryoma, act on Okubo’s tip-off and storm Omiya, only to discover that Ryoma is gone.
Ryoma, Jin and the others are at Teradaya in the outskirts of Kyoto. Nakaoka, who came along with them because he wanted to discuss something that Ryoma had handed to the Satsuma domain without saying a word to him, does not find it inconducive to talk and decides to leave and return the next day. However, as Nakaoka walks through the streets, he overhears men enquiring about Ryoma’s whereabouts. He hastily turns back in attempt to warn Ryoma, but is waylaid by a group of men who slash him and leave him for dead … …
Meanwhile, Jin and Saki keep vigil at Teradaya while Ryoma indulges in drinks, seemingly oblivious to his impending fate. Jin grows more anxious as the hours slowly go by. But when the sound of a temple bells signals the start of a new day, he gets hopeful that the worst is over.
Ryoma requests to speak to Jin alone, and bluntly asks if Jin had come all the way to Kyoto to protect him because he should have been killed the day before?
“You’ve become my guidepost.
When I first met you, I was still an ignorant loyalist of the anti-foreigner faction.
I had some doubts about whether this was right,
but I didn’t know what else I could do so I went along with them.
However, when I saw you treating cholera all by yourself,
I thought that I should try to do what I believe to be right without any fear.
It was the same with the Choshu war.
I talked myself into believing that this war was necessary and that there was no other choice.
You got angry … and I tried to reconsider.
To me, you’re like a lighthouse in the night sea.
I feel like I’ll be fine if I just try to head there.
But I’ve already had enough of carrying this (gun) around.
There are other things I wish to do.
I would like to step out of this.”
These words somehow sound like a farewell to Jin. He tries to tell Ryoma why he has come back in time to the Edo era, but he experiences another headache again. A worried Ryoma leaves the room to get Saki.
Outside Teradaya, a fight has broken out between Kyotaro and Higashi, who confronted him after observing him lurking around for two hours. Higashi tries to reason with him. Kyotaro’s actions are fruitless because even if he were to kill Ryoma, the reign of the Tokugawas has come to an end and he will not be able to turn back time. But Kyotaro has no alternative. The fight intensifies as his two companions rush over and face off against Higashi.
Saki goes to help Jin while Ryoma draws water downstairs. He notices the sounds of a sword fight, and opens the window to see Higashi battling three men. Ignoring Higashi’s warning to flee, he steps out to confront them, but he has left his gun upstairs in the room with Jin. In the next instant, he finds Kyotaro with a sword pointed at him.
While Ryoma is questioning Kyotaro if Saki and Ei have been taken hostage, Saki appears downstairs with Jin. Shock registers on their faces as they take in the situation. Jin tries to get close to Ryoma, who wonders aloud if Kyotaro has no other choice but to commit suicide after killing him. This met by a tearful apology from Kyotaro.
Higashi breaks free at the same moment that Kyotaro brandishes his sword above his head and intercepts his blow. Then, one of the other men charges at Ryoma. Higashi closes his eyes, and wields his sword. However, he for some reason swings it to strike Ryoma instead, and the blade slices through Ryoma’s forehead causing blood to spatter on Jin’s face … …!
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