I smile, possessively, as I watch them talk. Kaoru, Yahiko, Sano, and Megumi. Ayame and Suzume as well. These.....this group, these friends....they are my friends. I take a certain, fierce delight in that thought. Mine. They are mine. My family, my heart. Mine, and mine alone. Funny how just one word can say how much. Strange how the feeling surges up within me when I look at them, when I mouth that word. The feeling of a fierce pride, a wild love, a savage desire to protect no matter what the cost..... I pity the poor soul that would try to hurt them. They are mine. Make any one of these precious ones cry, and there will be heck to pay.

I would kill for them. I would break my vow. I would die for them. That is the ultimate expression of love, no matter what teachings my master may have. I would give every single drop of blood in my veins for their safety and happiness. These people...they are mine, my loved ones. Each of them is precious....a friend, a lover, a child to me. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing them smile, seeing their joy. Nothing can make me almost cry with joy like I do when they smile at me, touch me, hug me. These are my loved ones. Heaven have mercy on the fool that tries to hurt these. I will not.

Mine. The word tastes sweet in my mouth. Almost as sweet as their laughter is to my ears. They are mine.

I did not always have something to live for like this. After one certain woman died, I took care not to love ever again. I have never been able to find a middle ground. Either I do not care, or I give my whole heart and soul. For so long I did not care. And now.....these precious ones have my all, heart and soul. They need not be afraid of betrayal or feeling unloved while I am around. Not while I am able to talk, to reach to them. They are mine, and I will give my all to them.

I will do all within my power to make sure that nothing hurts them. To make sure they will never have to be afraid again. Nothing pains me more than a single tear from their eyes, nothing rips me apart like their pain. I will do everything, anything I can to make sure pain does not touch them. And if it does, I will be near, to shelter and soothe the wounds, to weather the tears and sobs. I will not fail them. Not these precious ones.

I don't think it would be any different if they did not care for me. Even if they turn to hate me, for whatever reason this unworthy one may give them, I will still be theirs. I will still love them with everything I have. They are mine, and I'm afraid it doesn't matter if they want to be or not. They are mine. I would not hate them, even if they killed me. I love them with all my heart and soul.

And what, you say, if it comes to them fighting among themselves?

It would hurt me. But I think I could weather it, could settle it without bloodshed. And I truely do not think they would fight amongst themselves. They have weathered too many hardships together. They are a family, bound together with love.

Mine. Oh, how wonderful that word feels to say. They are mine, without question, thought, or doubt. Sometimes I wonder if they know how much I love them, how much I want to be there for them. Do they know that a single smile from any one of them makes my world perfectly right? Do they know that tears, a frown, shatters my happiness into shards uncounted? It does not matter. As long as they know, whenever they need it, that I am here for them, and nothing they do or say can shake my loyalty to them. Nothing any one says or does can make me stop loving them. They are mine. My heart's own.

Heaven have mercy on the fool who would take their happiness. I certainly won't.

Mine.