Disclaimer-I don't own Kenshin, Soujiro, or any of the other awesome characters or plot of Rurouni Kenshin. Merely borrowing them.

Soujiro Seta smiled.

He didn't smile because he was happy, as some thought. If one knew him, however, they would wonder how he could smile with the horror in his life. They would wonder how there was any happiness at all in his sad existence. Broken, belittled, and battered by the people who raised him, sundered from all care and love, a slave in all but law. A living, breathing tragedy.

How could someone like that smile?

The truth was, Soujiro smiled because there was no other emotion he knew. Anger, hate, sadness, contentment, none of those existed in his soul.

But because of that, the smile was as empty and as hollow as his jaded soul. Every feeling aside from a scant, false happiness was buried in a deep abyss of emptiness.

He kept smiling as he raised his newly acquired wakizashi, remembering the maxim burned into his brain just moments before by his new master, Shishio.

"If you're strong, you live. If you're weak, you die."

Once, Soujiro was weak. Too weak to fight back, too small, too weak, too weak.

Now Soujiro was strong. He would live. His relatives would die. They would die for his revenge, so that he would become strong.

"Brat! What are you-" His uncle never had a chance to finish his words as the wakizashi soared down and sent his lifeblood flying.

His cousins screamed in terror as they fled from him, moving like rabbits from the wolf.

Soujiro Seta smiled.

He continued smiling as he cut down his last remaining blood relatives effortlessly, letting their blood soak his clothing and drench him in a pungent mixture of blood and rain. He smiled as their dying screams were cut, as their bodies made soft thumps on the soft earth.

Soujiro's blade cut through the last of his relatives, his aunt, and he smiled as bitter tears fell unnoticed from his eyes, their escape cloaked by rain.

And from a distance, the man who had given him a sword and a life also smiled, a smile of triumph and pleasure.

But the smile on Soujiro's face was still empty.

Soujiro Seta smiled.

That day when he had first tasted the effortlessness of death and became the Tenken was so far away now. Now Soujiro was a grown man, and the strongest and deadliest swordsman in the Juppongatana.

But the smile had never changed and never gone away. Still as empty and as hollow as ever, reflecting its wearer's soul. The smile was there even as Soujiro died by degrees inside.

In these long years, Soujiro's heart had stayed empty and emotionless. But that was okay now. He was the Tenken, the strongest of the Juppongatana, his master's sword.

And a sword has no need for emotions.

Emotions made you weak. Without them, Soujiro Seta was invincible.

Without the ability to feel anything above simple happiness, Soujiro still had a strange, impossible innocence about him. Even after the slaughter of men where blood dripped from his clothing, he still had a small naivete about him. To this young man, the world was still black and white, good and evil, them and us. The ultimate paradox; an innocent murderer, a child-killer. At eighteen years of age, Soujiro Seta was by all accounts a case of arrested development, barely a child in his psyche.

The only thing that defined his paradoxical existence was that simple maxim that was etched in his heart.

"If you're strong, you live. If you're weak, you die."

Unquestioningly, unerringly the Tenken followed this belief to the letter. Only the strong survived, and the weak were food for the strong. Soujiro was strong, so he must feed on the weak to survive.

The carriage was coming soon. Shishio wanted this man dead, so he sent his Tenken to do it. And the Tenken always obeyed Shishio. Quickly, faster than even the gods, Soujirou ran towards the moving vehicle, and opened the door.

The man turned and his eyes widened in fear and horror.

Soujiro Seta smiled, and the smile was hollow.

The smile didn't waver as he plunged a knife into the man's heart and felt the familiar, warm feeling of blood on his hands.

Soujiro Seta smiled.

But this smile was different now. Now the smile had vitality, vivified from its once hollow and dead state.

His soul was alive again, singing a sorrowful song of confusion and happiness.

His mind was at last that of a man's, an adult's, full of questions that had no answers.

Who was right? Was the maxim "If you're strong, you live. If you're weak, you die" still true, or was the Battousai correct? Was a path of protecting the weak the true way to strength?

The two conflicting ideas contrasted in his mind, making him a human being once more. For what is humanity but a the state of confusion, the never-ending and eternally unfulfilled quest for answers?

Soujiro Seta smiled as his mind and heart were more alive than they had ever been, more human than before in eighteen years of life.

No longer was Soujiro a child who strictly believed in one school of thought unquestioningly. No longer was Soujiro the Tenken, Shishio's living, breathing blade.

The release had been painful, and still the injuries from the Battousai's final attack ached on cold winter nights. But birth, especially rebirth, is always painful. To have your innocence stripped from you, your value system obliterated, your very life put into question is never pleasant.

But the blade of the former Hitokiri Battousai, Kenshin Himura had stripped the innocence away to destroy the ignorance intertwined with it. Without that veil of not knowing, Soujiro was at last forced to become a human being, was reawakened and given new life. The abyss that had for so long locked his feelings away was broken and the titans freed from their slumber.

Their awakening had almost overwhelmed Soujiro.

Their awakening broke everything he had ever known and trusted, and destroyed the Tenken. But Soujiro was no longer empty. Broken, yes. But not empty. In the ruins of his old world, he was reborn.

From the ashes of the only life he had ever known and felt that he belonged with, Soujiro Seta emerged shakily, with an uncertain destiny and a hidden path. Broken, Soujiro would reforge himself into a new man, a better man with his own beliefs.

And now Soujiro was also a child again, wandering, taking his first steps on the road of life, questions in his soul and an unknown horizon in the distance. He was the young man at the same time, however, forging his own path through life, struggling to find his own beliefs and to make his own fortune.

Were you like this, Soujiro asked silently to the Battousai. Was the journey supposed to be this unclear, the destination unknown and the answers hidden?

Still, the answers had to be out there. Himura had found his answers, and so the former Tenken would find his. No matter how long it took.

Soujiro Seta smiled, and at last, it was real.

AN: I hope you enjoyed my little character sketch of Soujirou. Always have a soft spot for the "struggling for redemption" or tragic past heroes. As always, reviews are more than welcome.