January, 1864

Today was difficult for Himura.

I should explain.

After his first kill and the next few assignments as well, he showed no signs of his actions. Perhaps he became a little quieter, but he is so quiet generally it is hard to tell. His actions before and after, however, indicated the polite and well-mannered, balanced child who had never killed.

It was eventually noted by his comrades that he disappeared after the assassinations, though no one knew where to. Iizuka started to watch Himura, and one evening followed him into the kitchen when he did not leave.

He was huddled in a corner, crammed to the side of a cupboard and curled around his sword. He was trembling violently, and didn't respond to or acknowledge any of us. Our doctor gave him sedatives, enough to bring down a man twice his size, before his trembling eased. He fell asleep shortly thereafter, and we didn't find him in such a state for a long while. He took to spinning the toy top he keeps with him most days, instead.

I asked Takasugi about him, before we left the Kiheitai. He said the boy had unparalleled skill, and told me that I would be ruining his life if I made him hitokiri. He knew very well why I was making my choices; I suppose he wanted me to know just what I would destroy, and went on to tell me all his observations of Himura. I think of these now, as I watch the boy.

I have ruined him. I feel I would give anything for something to help this boy, because even though I knew what I was doing when I asked this of him it is worse than I thought. He truly is destroying himself for us, in a manner different from his predecessors. They destroyed their humanity. Himura destroys his heart and soul.

I have begun to pray for him, every night, in hopes that he will last through this war. The other men of our side are just that - men - they are friends, comrades, people we dislike but agree with. They will have lived before their deaths, should that occur, but Himura is a child, who now is on his way to an existence worse than death.

But he is saving us, bringing a peace to those around him, and I cannot ask him to cease.

He has again taken to finding a corner to hide in, after fervently cleaning his hands for long periods of time. A new habit.

I have coaxed him from a corner this evening, and convinced him to eat something with me. In hopes that he would get some rest, I had him lie down.

The boy sleeps now, head pillowed against my leg, hands clenched around his sword. He does not rest.

(Originally posted fourth)

This side fic is dedicated to lolo popoki, my lone, dedicated reviewer. I would check my e-mail at the end of the day, and there would be my one review-mail. Lolo, I love you, and I owe you an apology. I started reading your 'Only the Beginning' about one chapter before I finally reviewed - of course, the delay was because I was still going around like (speechless awe), but still, you might have liked to know that. So there you go. I was much the same for 'Frigid Waters', and repetitive reviews must be annoying, so ... ahahaha.