~*~

The Meiji Teachings
The Sword That Protects - Myoujin Yahiko
Akai Kitsune

~*~

  \\ "You'll become strong as a practitioner of the sword that protects life." //

All my life, one thing I remember is how much I hated being weaker than others. To see everyone else fighting, winning, while I stood back and watched, unable to do anything, to help it, to stop it. Anything.

I was useless; a burden, a weak, unskilled child who did nothing but hinder those I cared about.

I wanted to be strong.

I wanted it so badly. It hurt, to know that I was such a burden.

I never wanted to be a burden.

My mother died a few years ago. It hurt then, too, and the ache is always there. I remember watching her, the weak, soft smile on her face, and she touched my hair, stroked my cheek, whispering that it would be okay, and that she'd get better, and that I should go out and play before it gets dark.

I remember leaving, then coming back to an empty room. Alone.

And then, I remember the numb, black feeling of all dreams being shattered, as the pig-faced yakuza spoke to me of my mother's debts. Unpaid, now passed on to me. His false remorse still echoes in my ears. \\ Poor child, so young, already with a price on your head. //

\\ I know how you can pay it off, child. //

\\ It's easy. //

So I began to steal.

And it was easy, really. I was small, and my body was well suited for the quick, sneaky movement pickpocketing required. I could escape, if I was caught, though few suspected me.

I was good at it, and I could get away before they even realized anything was gone.

\\ Good work, child. Keep it up. Keep stealing for me, and the debt will be paid off. //

Every day, I heard those words. Keep working. Keep stealing. The debt will be paid.

When?

Years, I did this. I stole, and I stole, but the debt never seemed to decrease. It never changed.

How much are doctor's bills, that I owed so much for my freedom?

And I hated being so weak, so young, unable to escape from that place alone. I hated not being able to work honestly for the money that kept me alive.

If I was bigger...

If I was stronger...

If...

But... no matter how much I wished, it wouldn't come true. I wouldn't grow any faster, I didn't get strong, and all I could do was keep on stealing.

And then... I met him on the bridge, all those months ago. The one I thought was just a foolish samurai, waltzing around with the sword, like he was some great man, strong enough to ignore the law and the edict against carrying swords that had ruined my chance at following the footsteps of my origins.

Son of Tokyo samurai.

... but... I knew those dreams should have died long before.

I thought he was fool. But...

... with that sword...

... with that strength...

... he saved me. Me, who was young, who was weak, who mocked him for having what I believed I could never have.

And he smiled.

\\ "I underestimated you again." //

How do you underestimate a weak, useless child?

  \\ "Your body is young, but your heart is that of an adult." //

Maybe... maybe he saw something I didn't believe was there. I thought it, but I didn't really believe.

Maybe... he saw someone, when no one else did. Someone who could be a real samurai.

Like him.

A real samurai.

There are many fools in this world who think they're warriors just because they can hold a sword. I thought he was one of them.

Okay, so I was wrong...

I thought I was testing him, but in a way, he was testing me instead. I tested his abilities, but he... he tested my strength. My pride.

My honour, as a samurai.

Where others saw a child, a weak, useless brat... he saw a future warrior.

I'll never forget that.

So... maybe I can be like that. Maybe I can be the kind of person he wants me to be, the person he sees in me, that no one else does.

I want to be like him... I want to protect people.

He protected me. I want to be like that. I want to have the strength to help those who are weak, those who need someone like him.

Not the killer, the hitokiri he thinks he is... but... the true spirit of the warrior, who is forever running ahead of me with a strength I can only dream of...

... someday, I want to be like that.

I want to run ahead. I want to run by his side, fight with him, give him my strength when he needs it.

Someday, he'll be proud of me. He'll be proud to call me his ally.

Maybe... he already does. The way he looks at me...

The way he looks at Sano...

He sees the warrior's spirit. He sees our true self, our strength.

I want to be strong.

Why?

Because he is?

No...

Because he knows I can be. He knows I will.

So... I will be strong.

~*~

Author's Notes: Ah, the underappreciated Yahiko. ^_^ I like him; something about his nature making him enjoyable beyond the brazen insults. Unlike the others, this one was shorter, but came a bit easier for me. Yahiko is a little complex, but not as much as maybe Kenshin or Soujirou... which also makes it harder for me, because I can read complex more easily than I could figure out Yahiko's way of thinking. But it came eventually. I hope it was good, and thanks again for reading!

~*~

Akai Kitsune
Written May, 2002

~*~