Standard Disclaimers Apply.
The rain pounded down on the two wanderers mercilessly, drenching Shishio’s healing skin, making the older man irritable. Still, they moved onward without seeking shelter, knowing that they had to leave the scene of the crime. Seta Soujiro had just killed his only family, cruel to him though they might have been. Shishio was already a wanted murderer, and now they would both be hunted by the police, if what happened on that rainy night ever became known.
Shishio Makoto stole a glance at the boy who walked beside him, wondering how broken the child really was. He hadn’t really been thinking too far ahead when he’d invited Soujiro to come along; it had been one of his spur of the moment decisions. Still, Soujiro had automatically accepted, not knowing if there were any other options. Still, something seemed right about having the boy with him, like having a wakizashi and katana working in perfect unison. Even now the boy held onto the wakizashi, and Shishio watched with a satisfied eye at the firm grip he had on the sword.
They were quite a ways away from the Seta warehouses before Shishio finally decided that it was time to call a halt to their march. He stopped abruptly, holding up a hand. “We should rest,” he said in a gruff voice. “Running hard for too long has proven to be the downfall of many.”
The boy blinked, then brushed damp tendrils of hair out of incredibly blue eyes. “Hai, Shishio-san.” He moved to the dubious shelter of some low-hanging branches, then turned back to look at the older man. “I’m not tired, though,” he said as an afterthought.
“You spent a long day at work, then there was the... incident... before we departed. We’ve been walking for several hours since,” Shishio told him. “You’re running on adrenaline now.”
“Really?” the boy asked curiously. He held out his hands, still dotted with the blood of his relatives and studied them curiously. “Does killing people always give you extra adrenaline?” he asked with an inquisitive smile.
That smile fascinated Shishio. Shishio wasn’t a kind man, but something about this boy who had just killed his own family - a crime that most people would instantly condemn him to hell for - drew the former Ishin hitokiri to him. There was an innocence in it, a naivety in which Shishio was beginning to see the possibilities. The fact that the boy had brought down three swordsman with only a wakizaki spoke of potential with a sword, and having a servant around to do errands wouldn’t be a bad idea. The boy could go into towns and get supplies and news if taught for Shishio’s own appearance was now so marred by his burns and bandages that he couldn’t blend into a crowd and who would suspect a child of being the agent of the infamous Hitokiri?
“Yes,” he said. “When you kill someone, there’s a thrill of knowing that you have lived another day. You have proven yourself stronger than the one you have defeated, and you have fed upon his flesh. You become stronger with each kill you make.”
The boy’s sweet smile was incongruous with his nex question. “Then Shishio-san has killed a lot of people?”
“Yes.” Shishio spoke it without pride or hesitation, merely stating fact. “I’ve killed, and I will kill again. And so will you.”
Soujirou blinked a bit, but seemed untroubled as he settled down underneath the leaves, shutting his eyes and falling into a peaceful slumber. In his hand he clutched the sword as many children would have clutched a toy, something Shishio noted with pleasure.
That first night Soujirou spent with Shishio should have been filled with nightmares and uncertainties, but no nightmares troubled his sleep. There had been too much to do after Shishio had invited him to come along. Neither of them seemed to have expected it, but there seemed to be a bond growing between the two, an instinctive understanding. Soujiro had seen the older man kill the police officers, but for some reason, Shishio had spared him. He was convinced it wasn't out of anything resembling compassion... no, Shishio had none. Shishio had plans for him, and Soujiro knew that these plans would be great things.
Shishio was destined for great things, and Soujiro wanted to see what they were.
Besides, Shishio was the strongest person he had ever seen and even had help him drag the bodies into the house to delay their discovery for a bit. While there, they had ransacked the place, taking what ready cash there was. Soujiro had remembered where his uncle had hidden his funds, which Shishio had appropriated easily. Shishio had explained to Soujiro that this was how the strong fed off the weak, which Soujiro listened to, smiling his agreement.
Shishio seemed to know everything.
When Shishio had asked if he was crying, Soujiro had hesitated for a long moment, holding onto the wakizashi tightly as the rain continued to beat relentlessly against him, as though it could wash away all his sins. Then he turned and smiled, the same sweet smile that had made Shishio hesitate when he had been about to kill him a week before. When he had smiled, Soujiro didn’t know that he was denying his humanity; that would take years and a battle with a man who would have protected him, had he only been there. His sweet smile mingled with the last tears he would shed for a decade as his level voice assured Shishio it was only the rain.
So Soujiro slept, unaware that a demon was watching him, making silent plans to drag him into hell. The dark time of the Bakumatsu may have passed, but that didn’t mean that the dark people who lived in it were destroyed. Shishio knew better than anyone that the world they were living in was only a temporary place, but he intended to be the one who ruled it.
He intended to show them all that hell really existed, and it existed on this earth - and this boy was going to help him. If he sculpted him right, Shishio knew he could keep his promise to make Soujiro strong. He would foster the boy’s emptiness until there was nothing but a devil behind that empty smile.