By: The Lady Arianrod
Standard Disclaimers Apply.
a/n: This is a follow-up to my first Kenshin fic, "Face".
Parts of this are in Soujiro's POV.
The tension in the tiny room is so thick that it could be sliced with a dull knife. A dim light cloaks various surfaces, including the smooth shine of the wooden floor and the worn texture of the bluish walls.
Kenshin Himura turns to his opponent, still silently baffled at the boy's constant grin. He is clad in a pale uniform and a frozen visage, terrifying and innocent in the same instant.
What is the fight for? Is it simply for Shishio to succeed, or for Kenshin to defeat the evil that is the Juppon Gatana?
It is a battle for survival.
If Soujiro survives, he will be the stronger individual. He had the right to live and Kenshin the right to die, according to Shishio's twisted logic. If Kenshin lives, then many innocent millions will be saved from Shishio's reign of terror and yet another opponent will be defeated.
And still they are at a stalemate.
Kenshin's vibrant purple eyes are the doors to a mind that is merciful and kind, loving and simple. The Battousai's presence has nearly vanished, and the former manslayer cannot wait to return to his friends and the one woman who can shape his actions: Kaoru.
Soujiro's eyes are a dull brown. They are flat and do not catch the light; they only reflect it. They are opaque doors that shield an empty, dark soul. This labyrinth is devoid of emotions, desires, loves and hates.
Their eyes meet and Kenshin's humanity is absorbed and then dissolved by Soujiro's disturbing confidence. He smiles, ever sure that he will survive and will have no reason to feel weaknesses, like those.... humans.
They all stand around, pointless people.... they are weak. They do not deserve to live, and in the end perhaps I will kill them.... if it is needed for my survival.
Kenshin Himura will also fall, for he is pliable and weak and human...
I need not dwell on his reasons for fighting, for my own is sufficient: survival.
No one needs to know the pain that quilts the basement of my thoughts, the bolted chambers. I have put shutters over those once glaring windows of agony, and no one will pull back that covering. Mere memories have fizzled away into echoes of a myth, and now I will head into the future, killing who I need to, if only I can survive.
Shishio will not stand in my way, so surely the Battousai will not. He is now a softened person, most likely in love or something pathetic like that. What a waste of time... that swordsman of the Hiten Mitsurugi style will be more vulnerable, for his heart is divided between many people instead of being a solid wall, a machine dedicated to one purpose, like mine is.
His heart is in a million pieces, each being a weak person that he has saved. My heart, although it does not deserve to be called one, allows me to kill those weaklings that ruin my life or hold me back from fully being the strongest that I can. Kenshin does not understand this; in fact, he fights this.
What a fool.
Perhaps someday, he will become the Battousai again. He will be able to slay when needed, without thinking of the breaths that his enemy takes or the thoughts that his enemy has. No one and nothing will matter, for he will finally see the truth.
And still he talks of his life, his ideas, as if they are the truth. I banish these distracting, false ideas, but one thing bothers me...
Kenshin Himura looks at me after we clashed swords, each of us pouring what we stand for into the very blade of our katanas. He is somehow still strong, when he should be weak....
How does he do it?
Perhaps the fighting skills of the Battousai still remain. Wait... he does not viciously strike at me but for a reason. It is not survival for himself but the impossible dream of the safety of those millions. The weak people.
How can he fight me then, so opposite to him, and not plan to kill me? He hates the very idea that people should act as individuals only, with no care or mercy for others. Even so, why does he still have mercy on me?
This idea.... it makes me recall those days.... was I once able to feel, to care, to despise and to dream?
No, no. It can't be true. This is not going to happen during my chance to finish off the Battousai.
I see a small child tugging at the shutters over that room in the lower level, reminding me..... and I feel.
A great desire to kill Kenshin overtakes me, anger for making me doubt, anger for making me become surprised at his outlook, to show even remote wonder...
I cannot...... feel.
I should not feel.
And yet.... I hear him say "not killing"..... and I feel the strength of humanity, what it feels like to experience all that lies beyond simply surviving....
I wonder again why he would die for the protection of others, and, yet again, I wonder.... not understand, not quite feel, but wonder...
The child sits in the silent, hidden room. He peeks behind the shutters and sees people walking about in a land of sunshine. They laugh, they cry, they talk amongst themselves and hate some people and have strange closeness with others...
Could they be.... humans?
They are weak.... how can they affect me-- the child?
This most unusual change cannot happen now, at the very heart of the battle....
And yet, I feel that the light in Kenshin's eyes, his humanity... is somehow becoming stronger and more important...
I must get away for a moment to recollect my thoughts....
Before the shutters are opened and---
Before my heart can shatter.