~*~
The Meiji Teachings
The Art Of Killing - Himura Kenshin
Akai Kitsune
~*~
\\ "A sword is a weapon. Kenjutsu is the art of killing." //

Strange, how murder can be described that way. An art. Like a fine ink drawing, a smooth brushstroke on a portrait. The swift slashes of a Western pencil, the ragged sculpture carved out of clay.

An art. The art of killing.

Perhaps not as far off as I imagine.

Sword strikes, smooth, swift as lightning, fine and practiced with as much ease as traditional kanji. The ruthless carving of man's soft, pliable flesh. The spill of blood on the ground, like a clumsy writer, knocking over his inkpot.

Perhaps...

But... is it really an art? An art should be something to enjoy, something done not purely out of duty, or obligation. Something that should come as easily as breathing, without pain or grief or the sharp sting of regret so soul-shattering that it tears the heart out and makes one feel like there's nothing-

... perhaps...

Is it really an art? The slaying of man? The murders, whether they come at night, or day, or the shadows of nightmares that should never be thought in any mind, regardless of how evil they may be? Killing. The word seems so common, so casual, so... easy.

An art should come easily.

But...

Killing is not as easy as one may believe. I... thought it would be easy. Easy to bury my soul, to destroy whatever part of soft-hearted human kindness that urged me to join in the war efforts in the first place, to pick up my sword, kill all who opposed the ideals in which I followed, sometimes blindly, sometimes not, then return to the inn and sleep peacefully without the faces of the dead returning to accuse, to moan and bleed and demand justice, vengence, making me want to scream and cry and kill them all over again, just to make them stop-

... but...

It's not an art.

So... can kenjutsu really be called an art? Of anything? I enjoy it, yes. Kenjutsu is my life, something in which nothing, aside from death, perhaps, can separate from me. I have learned it, whether for good or for evil, and it will remain in my mind, attuning my body to all my surroundings, for as long as I remain living on this world.

I enjoy it. It comes easily to me, now that I have learned it, practiced it for nearly ten years.
But...

Killing is not an art. Not for me.

Physically, it is easy. One slash of the sword, sometimes more if the opponent is particularly skilled or tenacious, and the deed is done. One lies dead, and the other cleans his sword, sheathes it, and returns home, victorious, praised by his comrades for a job well done.

Mentally?

Job well done.

Well done.

And then, when the praises are finished, when the comrades grow bored of their companion's blank acceptance, even jealous of the skill with which he destroys his targets, and they leave him to play dice, or visit brothels in the shadows of the night, not even bothering to invite him, because they were not friends, and they knew he would refuse, as he had done so many times in the past... when they leave, he returns to his room, curls against the window, never letting go of the sword at his side, for it is the one thing of his past that has not left him, and he sleeps, forever tormented by the slack faces, bloodshot eyes, drooping skin covered in spilled blood of that very night, the blood he had spilled with his precious katana, easily, so easily, while the kind heart that was buried deep beneath the surface grieves at the monster he has become-

It is not an art.

But then... what is it?

If it is not an art, what can it be called?

Killing?

That is too simple. Common. Casual.

Easy.

Killing is murder. Death. A ruthless act that can never be undone, no matter how much you want to go back and change everything, even killing yourself if it could change all the sins committed in your lifetime. Killing is something that should not be spoken of in front of children, yet thanks to men like me, they shout it from the streets in anger and hatred, longing for the vengence of a father, brother-

Sister...

If only I hadn't been there.

But I was. I was there, on the night Kiyosato Akira was murdered, the night a rain of blood fell on Kyoto, and it was my sword that slashed through his flesh, that tore his bride-to-be's heart out and drove her to seek me, that guided her into my keeping, that murdered her in the one, single act of ignorance that cost me the very life I had promised with all my heart and soul to protect-

I protect you.

If only I hadn't been there.

If it is not an art, what can it be called?

It is a sin. A brutal act against heaven that can never be forgiven, not for this one, not for the one who broke the only promise he ever made to the one he loved with his entire being. Not for Hitokiri Battousai.

... but...

What if... what if I could do it one more time?

What if I could... kill... one last time?

What if... I could kill... the Hitokiri Battousai?

Would that be considered an art, for me?

Would I finally begin to earn repentance, forgiveness for all the sins I have committed, if I just... killed... once more?

If Battousai was killed... he could kill no more. He could no longer haunt the world with the thirst for blood, with a shining blade of shadows that bites with all the ferocity of a crouching dragon, waiting for his prey to come close enough to attack and destroy without batting an eyelash, leaving nothing alive so no witnesses can be found, no one to identify him the next afternoon when he walks through town for a cup of sake, that only fills his mouth with the taste of blood, and death, and-

... what if he was dead, and there was no longer any need for him in the world?

What would I do?

How could I live?

Does it matter?

But... I have no desire to die yet. I deserve death, more than anyone else, certainly more than those I have murdered in the streets with no warning and no mercy. But... I don't want to die.

I want to live.

What reason do I have?

To protect.

Could that be reason enough to deny my victims their due, their pleadings of justice that try to destroy my mind day and night?

Could it...

To protect. That is the reason for which I left my master all those years ago. To protect those who suffered, in a war which I was unsure of, confused about. I willingly joined a group that told me to work in shadows, stealing lives by night and sleeping fitfully by day, until the war is over, until my work is done, or until I die.

I expected to die. I did not.

I was too good.

It was too easy.

... but... no, it wasn't easy. Every time I picked up the sword, it seemed heavier. Harder. There was a strange burden growing on it, and as it developed on the sword, so it did on my heart.

But... if I were to use it to protect... to save lives instead of stealing them... to give life, not death... would the mercy I show grant me forgiveness in time?

It is too much to ask. Far too much, for someone with as much blood on his hands.

And still... I must. I must try.

It won't be easy.

Redemption is not an art.

... but... I'm not looking for an easy path. Nothing in life should be as easy as killing.
It's not as easy as it seems.

... but... if I can... if I can do it... if I can protect others, without killing, in order to find the answer I need... then I will accept it.

I will follow the path to forgiveness, no matter how hard it may become.

It won't be easy.

I... I almost don't want it to be.

So... is kenjutsu the art of killing? Is it an art at all?

Maybe it is. And if it is, no amount of pretty words I use to describe it, to hide its true purpose, can change that.

But it doesn't mean that I have to follow those words.

Kenjutsu is the art of killing.

But it is not my art.

Not anymore. I have thrown away my brush, stained with red, left behind the carving tools that tore apart so much human clay. No longer will the ink run like blood turned black in the shadows. No longer will I make it fall from the sky like rain. No longer will I add more faces to my nightmares.

I want to wield a sword that protects people.

That... that should be the true kenjutsu. The true art.

I... I will not kill.

It is not my art.

Never... ever again...

~*~

Author's Notes: Cheers, my first submission ever to FF.net! Well I hope I didn't start out too badly; I know there are a lot of Kenshin character sketches, but this idea just wouldn't go away. Forgive me the cliche. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me. Thank you very much for reading!

~*~

Akai Kitsune
Written December, 2001

~*~