It was always so peaceful back then. Even though it was hard to keep food on the table. Even though shrieks and running feet going 'tat tat tat' across the floor broke through my meditation almost daily. Even though the children bickered over little things and it seemed every hour I was called upon to settle an argument or soothe a scraped knee. It was chaotic…but peaceful. They had such light in their eyes, those children. Their joy in living and innocence could drive away any evil spirit. … Except for those that exist in the heart of men.

            Even now I can't understand. Why did they do it? How could they do it? They were children! Innocents! I would have gladly sat in that burning house myself if it meant that they would be spared! But those evil hearted bastards never gave me that choice. Instead young bodies were burnt and crushed under the collapsed roof. The only sign of them, a fragile hand, lifting up through the rubble, as if trying to reach up to heaven.

            How I wept for them…even after the tears stopped I wept. My heart beat in sobs and every day I felt their loss. But…as the days passed and I got stronger, the tears turned hot with anger. Everyone was my target for no one was innocent. I hated everything. A world which would kill children had no right to exist! I wouldn't let it. I took it upon myself to cure the world of its disease. To make a new one! To make one that the children would be happy to come back to!   Rage fueled me and added a fire to my heart. I could no longer see what I was doing. I could no longer feel the lives I tore apart…or the loves I shattered.

            I wonder now how I could have been so blind? If it weren't for that boy. That strong, stubborn child who knew so little and understood so much. If it weren't for him, I would have let that fire consume me completely. If it hadn't been for him, the tears of the young spirits would have fallen on an empty, blackened shell.

            Now I sit in my cell, trying to meditate. But as usual…my mind won't allow it. I can't help but see all those I've killed. I can't help but see those beautiful young faces, smeared with soot and twisted in agony. My rage is gone and my heart is drowning in tears. But it is good. I will pay my penance and perhaps, one day, I may meet them again.

            The keys rattle in the door and I unwillingly look up. It is a new jailer. Young. Fresh from the country, or so the guards were muttering. I watch him, trying to seem harmless. Most of the guards fear me, although they will not say it. I can see the way the food tray shakes when they place it in front of me. But strangely, this jailer is not afraid. His hand is steady as he sets the tray down. Does he not know I was of the Juppongatana?

            "It's a good meal today Anji-san," he says as he looks at me. For a moment, my heart stops. He is smiling and his eyes…his eyes are so familiar. I know I have seen him before…but I cannot place the face. Before I have a chance to call him to memory, he straightens and leaves, shutting the door firmly behind him. I watch him leave and the corner of my mouth smiles. I do not know why I am so happy to see him… But my heart knows. And someday perhaps…I will know too.

~~~

Author's Note: Anyone else think Anji could be Mitsukake's brother? *crickets chirp* Well he couuuld!

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Tho I wish I did.

Da no da!

Night~Mare