Disclaimer: If you think I own RK, I would advise you to go see a doctor. ASAP.

Notes: Did I say I was going to take a break from RK? (I am such a big fat liar. XD) My muse is too damn fickle. :-P BTW… this is a companion piece to "Meditation," and is sort of interconnected with "Kakusei" (a work in progress). It should be pretty obvious when this one takes place, but just in case – it's right after the Tokyo arc, but before Kyoto.

                                                                                    ~ Sanity ~

            He used to dream, every night, of scarlet blood and crumbling castles and silver stars and the yellow moon and rain.

            And it was beautiful.

            Heartbreaking, but beautiful.

            He used to dream of the sea. Of the angry deep violet-blue waters, crashing against rocky shores. The white gulls and their lonely cry as they soared in a gloomy grey sky. The fresh, crisp smell of the ocean breeze.

            The sea had always called to him, tugging relentlessly at his soul.

            Sometimes it drove him insane – the way blood drove him insane, the way decay drove him insane, the way the darkness drove him insane, the way the rain and its incessant pattering drove him insane.

            Heartbreaking, but beautiful.

            So beautiful.

            So, so beautiful.

            He no longer dreamed.

            His nights were silent now, filled with nothing but a cold dark emptiness. He was glad, for he had learned to love the dark silent embrace of the shadows, and he was no longer haunted by images that broke his heart with their sorrowful, savage beauty.

            His days were silent too, as he wandered aimlessly through misty dark mountain forests. Forests of death. Forests of demons and vengeful spirits. The trees grew thick and tall, blocking out all sunlight from azure skies above, and if any birds sang beneath their shadow, or if the wild mountain dogs wailed in the distance, he did not hear. Sometimes, bandits from nearby villages meandered into the cold shadows of the tall trees, lost. They never found their way back out again.

            He was glad that the sun could not reach her prying arms of warmth into the cold dark forest. For in the darkness, he could not see the blood, the crimson red puddles oozing into the forest soil, and if he did not see it, he would not be haunted by visions of the beautiful vibrant red colors at night when he slept.

            Beautiful, vibrant, red.

            So beautiful.

            So, so beautiful.

            Sometimes, he tried to remember, but he could not.

            There was nothing but the cold steel of his kodachis and the silence and the shadows.

            The second blade had been unfamiliar in his hands, at first. But he had persisted in mastering it. He no longer wanted to use kenpo, because kenpo was his art no longer, because he did not desire the feel of filthy flesh against his fists and feet anymore, and because fists and feet could be broken in the end. The moves of the Nitou Ryu made everything clean and cold and it was a beautiful, elegant dance that never ended, and the two twirling cold blades could never be broken.

            Sometimes, it rained.

            He hated the rain.

            He hated the feeling of the freezing droplets hitting his skin like so many tiny icy blades.

            He hated the rain. He always had.

            Sometimes, he returned to the clearing. But not often, because he had promises to keep and goals to reach. Only then, when all was done and there was nothing left, would he come back and join them for good.

            Only once in his wanderings did he pause, letting the memories flood his mind. Only once. First he had recalled a little girl, bright and cheerful and always smiling. Thoughts of the little girl led to memories of the sun, and of laughter, and of blood. Blood, because in the end it had been blood that replaced her, when he had left her to guard crumbling old castles in a dying city. Beautiful, vibrant, and red. Red like the hair of the man he had vowed to kill. Beautiful, beautiful red. The blood then reminded him of the rain, and the rain led to memories of her. Because she had loved the rain, and her lips had been the color of blood, and she had been like fire, bright and beautiful and dangerous. Beautiful. And thoughts of her inevitably led to memories of his men. Ugly, beautiful, broken, strong. For beautiful poisoned red lips they had died, for beautiful fiery red hair they had died.

            It was the only time he slipped.

            He was glad he no longer dreamed. No longer dreamed of red, of dust, of the sky at night, of rain. No longer dreamed of the sea.

            Only this way could he keep his sanity.

                                                                                    Owari

To clarify my notes for "Meditation," there are different kinds of meditation in Buddhism. And different levels of meditation. Ugh. I'm a bad explainer. Anyways… So not all Buddhist meditation requires relentless questioning – in fact, the form most Westerners are familiar with is the one where you meditate to relax. Hehehe. ^_^ ---- *innocent grin*

Also, if you break down the kanji for Aoshi's name:

Shi – four

no – an indicator of possession

mori – forest

Therefore, Shinomori = forest of four. Hm, now what could that be referring to… ^_~ It's also a pun, as the kanji for death is also pronounced "shi." Forest of death. Haha. Very funny Watsuki-sensei. :-P (This is also why four is an unlucky number in Asian cultures…)

And finally, unless my stupid muse hits me with another random bit of inspiration, I really ­am on a break from RK. Really, honest. XD *kicks my stupid muse*