Disclaimer: I don't own RK. If I did, I would have animated the Jinchuu arc by now. :-P

Notes: This piece is stylistically weird, for me at least. It's meant to be sort of a companion to my other ficlet, "Sanity" (not yet posted), and is somewhat of a lead into yet another fic of mine, "Kaihou: Release" (not yet written… ^_^). It takes place somewhere between Kyoto and Jinchuu, during one of Aoshi's meditation sessions.

                                                                                    ~ Meditation ~

Take a deep breath.

Relax.

I was a fool.

Why? Still I do not understand… I was a damned fool.

Why do you mourn?

Because they should not have died.

Why should they not have died?

They never had a chance.

A chance to do what?

To live. To gain the respect of others.

The respect of whom?

Of those they fought for. Of those who scorned them, those who knew nothing of their true worth.

Who did they fight for?

For the shogunate, for the honor of Japan. For the people of Japan! For –

Who did they fight for?

For themselves, and for the Oniwabanshuu. For honor.

Who did they fight for?

… They fought for me. For me, their beloved Okashira.

It was my fault they died.

Why?

… They died for me.

Why did they die?

They took the bullets that were meant for me.

Why did they die?

I was a fool. Kanryuu was scum, and I knew it! But still I…

Why did they die?

Because… they would not have their Okashira die. They wished for me… to live.

I do not deserve to live.

Why?

Because I should have put the lives of my men before anything else. Because, in that one moment… I was afraid.

Why were you afraid?

I…

Why were you afraid?

I… There were many reasons.

Why were you afraid?

Because… as strong as I was, still I was nothing against an advanced firearm like that.

Why were you afraid?

Because… in that one instant, I saw that Japan truly had lost all her honor…

Why were you afraid?

Because… in that one instant, I saw that the old traditions were already lost to the ways of the gaijin…

Why were you afraid?

Because… I did not want to die.

Why did you not want to die?

… I was selfish.

What will you do with the life that has been given you?

I do not know. I was a fool. I wished to live though I had nothing to live for…

But Himura –

Himura knows nothing!

Do you love her?

… Yes. As I loved Okina and my men. I love her, for she is the little sister I never had.

Do you love her?

Yes… For she is the only family I have left.

Do you love her?

Yes, for she is pure, and innocent, and all that I once was…

Then what about her?

What about her, she who haunts your dreams, she who showed you truth, she whom you left, she who destroyed you, she who nursed you back to life, she who is the cause of all your pain?

She… if I had never met her, I never would have…

What about her?

If I had never met her, they never would have…

What about her?

I… I do not know…

Why do you mourn?

… I do not know.

Owari

No, Aoshi isn't going insane. :-P In advanced Buddhist meditation, you're supposed to question yourself. Relentlessly. After a while, you just kinda start going around in circles. (My parents are Buddhist…) ^_^ And despite what you may think, this piece is absolutely canon, except it is solely my interpretation of the actual storyline. Flame me if you wish; that's your problem, and your narrow-mindedness at work. ^_^