Heisuke and Sanosuke do not ask questions when what had been a rather uneventful watch is interrupted by Tatsunosuke falling unconscious into a pint of his own regurgitated blood twenty jo outside ...
Heisuke and Sanosuke do not ask questions when what had been a rather uneventful watch is interrupted by Tatsunosuke falling unconscious into a pint of his own regurgitated blood twenty jo outside the gates of the temple. They only part ways, Sanosuke running the short distance to get Tatsunosuke upright, and Heisuke running to wake Susumu to tell Shinpachi to make sure that Tetsunosuke does not leave the barracks.
Susumu cannot ask the questions he needs to - "when did this happen, and where" - in order to gauge how much blood Tatsunosuke has lost, how much energy he has expended. He only cleans the wound, which runs from the back of his right ear, along his jaw line, under and up the right side of his chin and into his mouth, through the left corner of his mouth, and up his cheek, where it becomes a broken, red line as it crosses over his left ear. And as he stitches the unnaturally, grotesquely widened corner of Tatsunosuke's mouth closed before taping gauze over the rest of the gash, he wonders if he is still able to taste the iron.
Tatsunosuke will not ask who the man was who gave him his scar. Giving him a name, a face, a family and friends, would just make things worse, and the memories that claw their ways into his dreams are bad enough: of his surprise when the katana he swung behind him, sightless and without aim, caught something; of his horror when he looked back to see the sword embedded in the other man's throat, and his revulsion when Tatsunosuke tried to pull it out but only caused it to tear through the rest of the man's neck; of his impermeable numbness as the man's wakizashi caught behind his ear. Nor does he wonder why he has not seen Ryouma in two months. He knows that the other man has good senses, and the blood that he can never seem to wash from his hands must smell like rot and death. Since the end of the first week of solitude in his prison of tatami and shouji, he has not been able to tell the color of his hands from the rest of his skin. He has not been able to tell the stench and taste of it that hangs in the air from that of the old, dusty books that litter his room.
Tetsunosuke does not have to ask what happened when he sees Ryouma drop from the tree by the wall one night in August because when he runs around to the wrong side of the barracks and stands on his tip-toes to peek through Tatsunosuke's window, Ryouma is running his fingers along the scar. And in the moonlight, he can see where the blood didn't quite wash out of the left side of his gi or the white crest on his /haori/, and he knows that his brother is no stranger to either first aid or sewing.
Ryouma no longer has to ask how the red, sticky smudge that he saw reflected in the river came to be on his forehead the afternoon that he woke under the bridge, bloody and in a great deal of pain, or why there was the corpse of a man - flies gathering around his slit-open throat - lying a few feet away from him. The scar on Tatsunosuke's face is nothing more than a thin, raised white line, now that the wound is healed, and he thinks it's a little ironic that such a little line stole so much life from Tatsunosuke and let him keep so much of his own, and he can't help hating himself for it.
jo - approximately 10 feet
katana - traditional Japanese sword
wakizashi - basically, the shorter version of a katana
tatami - woven mats, used as a traditional floor covering
haori - kimono jacket-type thing