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Under a cloudy dusk, in the darkness of the Kamiya Kasshin dojo, two rivals from one of the bloodiest revolutions in history come to face each other again in the peaceful days of the Meiji. But, as their ferocious and violent duel sees them fight near the razor's edge in an attempt to claim their opponent's life, rushing headlong, someone who can only bring them out of their darkness awaits- And he comes bearing an awful revelation that threatens the fate of all of Japan!
Kenshin continues his battle against Saito after being aerially counter stabbed by the Gatotsu-Second Style, and immediately pulls himself out before being dangerously cut apart by the follow up. Being kicked back, Kenshin tries again and faces the Gatotsu head on, but Saito immediately notices his tactic and shoulder checks his wound into the wall. Kaoru, seeing Kenshin wounded and breathing erratically, using more strength than is needed, comes to his aid and shields Kenshin to signal that he's had enough, but Kenshin, though considerate of her gesture, pulls himself up and continues with their duel.
Kenshin faces the Gatotsu again with a greater speed, but Saito counters by kicking him as he is to make a back attack. Flipping backwards in recovery, Kenshin stops breathing heavily and opens his eyes: Hitokiri Battōsai has reemerged. For the fourth time, Kenshin faces the Gatotsu but instead slides across the razor's edge and retorts with a Ryukansen. Crashing through the walls, Kenshin is unimpressed of their ten years absence at Saito's tactic of merely using the same technique to the point that even an idiot could have devised several ways around it. Saito gets back up and makes his intent known now that Kenshin's death is the goal of this fight, but Kenshin will have none of this; it will be the death of Saito at the end of this duel.
On the sidelines, Kaoru is struck in fear as Hitokiri Battōsai comes back for the first time, since she was held hostage by Udō Jin-e. As the two fiercely trade blows and clash blades, she begins losing hope, lamenting that she may never see his gentle side ever again, and urges someone, or something, to stop them before he returns to being a killer permanently.
Backed up against the wall and at a cutthroat moment against the sakabato's edge and Saito's blade edging up against him, Kenshin uses the small opening to kick at his face and escape. The two then again clash blades, and the intensity sees Saito's blade land into the wall near an unsuspecting Yahiko. From here, Kenshin has the advantage and expresses that now he shall have Saito's head.
Kaoru's tears now cannot contain themselves any longer after hearing Kenshin's words, and urges someone to stop them, before an awful conclusion takes place. In response, an awakened Sano with Megumi shouldering him states that in this duel now, only those from the Bakumatsu, those who knew what it was like and lived through its hell, can only reach the two lost in its intensity.
In the middle of town, a carriage rides down the streets. The bearded man within, asks Mr. Kawaji for the period of time since Saito has entered the Kamiya establishment. Having been four and a half hours now, he urges him to tell the drive to hurry- The fate of the entire nation are counting on the two men that fight within.Preparing the killing blow, Kenshin remarks on the relentlessness of the Shinsengumi and faces off against Saito. Responding that the Shinsengumi's first code of honor is to always follow the ways of Bushido, and to never back down from all odds, even certain death, he charges. Before what could be made as the penultimate blow by Kenshin, Saito throws his broken sword at Kenshin in Gatotsu stance, where then he brushes it off. Unamused, Kenshin goes in for the killing strike, but in the distraction made, Saito pulls out his belt to snap at Kenshin's sword arm in surprise, disarming him, and follows up by repeatedly punching at Kenshin's wound. Further overwhelmed by the pain of the assault, Saito pulls off his jacket and wraps it around Kenshin's neck, before lifting him up, and pulling it as hard as he can in a brutal attempt to snap his neck. Struggling to breathe and about to die, Kenshin slams his left hand onto his scabbard to land a hard hit onto Saito's chin.
As both of them fall back and recover from the nasty scuffle, the impression of such a struggle read that such a thing could have only come from those of the Bakumatsu. Realizing the duel has now reached its peak, the final standoff begins. Uncertain now if one of them will die, or if both will mutually assure their end onto another, Kaoru can only now weep and cry out uncontrollably in helplessness. At the last second, the order to halt blasts into the Kamiya Dojo. Wishing to not have the two cut each other down, in light of Saito's honor as Shinsengumi, the bearded man enters. Kenshin sees and confirms of the man- He is none other than the Meiji Secretary of the Interior, and the living last of the Three Great Imperialists of the Ishin Shishi: Okubo Toshimichi.
Unimpressed and visibly disappointed in Saito's conduct, Mr. Kawaji lambasts him for having strayed of his job testing the competency of the Battōsai into the Meiji and taking on his mission as a nasty fight, having nearly possibly killed him. Saito, having done his job, albeit in a vicious manner, reports of his results: Himura Kenshin is not the man they are looking for, but Hitokiri Battōsai is alive and well, and still as sharp as ever. Feeling unfinished, Kenshin spits out how Saito's life has been spared now after ten long years- And so has Kenshin's own. Hearing Akamatsu snooping around out back, Saito makes his departure.
Appalled at how such a man could be the best of Japan's police officers and undercover agents, the conversation moves on. Okubo apologizes for his orders of testing Kenshin in such an unexpected manner, and wishes for Kenshin to depart them, but Kenshin states that now as it stands, the situation has involved a lot more people, and asks to hold this emergency meeting there at the Kamiya Dojo. Kenshin then punches his forehead to return himself back to normal, and though joyed and relieved that he is now his old rurouni self, Kaoru accidentally handles him with unease, forgetting how wounded he is from the duel. As Megumi and the group come to bandage and heal Kenshin, Okubo will still go through with Himura's wishes- He needs his help above all else.
Later on, the meeting begins. Okubo's first matter of importance: Shishio is now beginning to rise in the city of Kyoto. The man in question, Shishio Makoto, was in the past, Himura's successor as a Hitokiri, described as the "assassin of shadows" that came to continue the real assassinations while Kenshin was summoned to the front lines to distract the oncoming opposition and protect his comrades. Though impressive in his skills of swordsmanship and martial combat like Himura, he lacked the virtue and patriotism to the causes of the Ishin Shishi that Himura had, seeing the opportunity as a way to impress the higher ranking revolutionaries and climb his way up the ladder. Upon finding out that his career as a hitokiri would be used in extortion and blackmail to undermine the Ishin Shishi's efforts to turn the public against them, having committed assassinations of such confidential magnitude under their name that could even result in the utter collapse of the new Meiji Government today if leaked, they conclusively decided to forever keep Shishio in that obscure darkness of history, having used the chaos of the Boshin Wars as a front to confront and execute him by firing squad, and immolating his corpse to silence him forever.
Much to their horror, Shishio survived that makeshift execution and was marred head to toe as a vengeful demon that the Ishin Shishi created of their own accord. Having built his power up in the last ten years, Shishio now stands as an underworld warlord, his ranks consisting of outlaw warriors that seek new battles, vicious killers, and weaponsmiths that hate the peace of the Meiji loyal to him, and desires to carry out a diabolical plan to throw Japan back into times of war and split the country into two with his dark secrets of the Meiji Government. With their forces unable to fend him off and meeting their demise at every encounter, he comes knowing that Himura is now Japan's only hope, for him to return to Kyoto, the former battlefield of clashing tensions and ideals of the Bakumatsu.
Having finished the discussion, Kaoru comes to make the first question, that if Himura will now be needed again to assassinate Shishio. Without euphemism, Okubo confirms her inquiry. Adding to his answer, Kawaji reveals that not only would a considerable bounty be paid for having assassinated Shishio, but that past crimes of the Kenshingumi will be pardoned. Making the use of Takani Megumi's record of an opium manufacturer as an example, Megumi immediately responds in outrage that such measures of blackmail would be done to force Kenshin to undergo their dirty work, and fears not the executioner's block for Kenshin's freedoms. Utterly disgusted with such measures as well, Sanosuke also makes it known of his attitude to such measures and come to point out that Kenshin is not their dog at their use, before Kawaji intercepts Sanosuke that the fate of the government is at stake. Sano in response makes it bluntly known that the downfall of the Meiji Government deserves such a fate for its actions and dark history, to the gain of the people everywhere. As their argument escalates to Kawaji's defense of the Meiji's efforts in bringing peace and prosperity, to Sano's disgust their pompous and fatheaded self righteousness and a near fight between the two, Yahiko adds his observation, that there is little to differentiate the situation's need for assassinations- Should had Himura continued his path as a hitokiri of the shadows, it would be Shishio who would be at their call to kill Himura instead.
At their conclusion, the Kenshingumi makes it known that Kenshin is not their hitokiri at their disposal, and answers in his stead. Before Kawaji lambasts their decision, Okubo calmly goes through with their decision. However, Okubo desires Kenshin to ultimately reconsider, not just for the sake of the country, but for the sake of Kenshin's own revolution that still tumults within his soul.
At an inn in the middle of Tokyo, Akamatsu reports to Shibumi of the escalated situation that now includes Okubo's involvment. Though Shibumi fancies the fact that he may now have enough possibility to even challenge Okubo's position, Akamatsu reconsiders, knowing of the possible backlash and trouble he may get himself into over this incident. Making his departure to Shanghai known, Saito opens the door, and makes a better recommendation to somewhere more fitting: Hell. In fear and shock, Akamatsu is decapitated before even inching a scream. Shibumi, utterly surprised at the turn of events, cowers on the floor. As Saito stands in his way, he reveals himself to make it known that his pride as a Shinsengumi, the men who lost as sacrifice to allow the peace of the Meiji to manifest, still do not allow such parasites and vice ridden corrupt men like Shibumi, who threaten Japan's prosperity and stability with their selfish actions. Under the code of Aku Soku Zan, and retorting that even men may be bought with money, and dogs with food, taming a wolf of Mibu, one cannot. As Saito makes his way out, Saito reflects on the evening's events. "A wolf is a wolf. The Shinsengumi, will always be the Shinsengumi, and a hitokiri, will always be a hitokiri - Right, Battosai?"
Guiding Okubo and Kawaji to their carriage, Okubo states that he will return in seven days, on May 14th, to hear of Kenshin's answer. Hoping for a positive answer, Kenshin tells his old ally that these ten years appear to have left him wearier than the man he was in the past. With frank and solemn words, Okubo tells to his ally of the truth that it is harder to raise a new era, than to break an old one, and that to oversee the peace of the Meiji has taken a lot out of him. Okubo bids farewell and rides into the night.
At the end of the night, Kaoru monologues that this would be the last time that they would ever see Okubo. As May 14th would come, that day would come to be one that no one would be prepared for.