Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X © N. Watsuki/Sheisha, Fuji-TV, Sony Pictures Entertainment, SME Visual Works Inc.

Author's Note:

I shouldn't be writing this, but after watching the episodes with Captain Souzou Sagara, I couldn't resist. So, I wrote this: a one-shot dedicated to the moments before his death. The moments before his head was taken as a trophy, and proof the citizens that 'the horrible, lying Sekihoutai' are dead. I was kind of bitter, and exhausted when I wrote this, so it might be a bit different than the rest of my stuff. All the same... Enjoy!

What are we?

The crimson stream of blood rushes down my side, rolling from the hole in my chest. Rasping breaths are taken slowly as I ponder... My last thoughts are strange...

Are we people?

The footsteps, stomping on the hard dirt ground, pounds as they look for more of the so called rebels and liars... us. How would we have known that? How would we have known our fate?

Are we just mortals wandering the earth until one day?

I have never realized what an amazing thing hearing is. But... Here I am, slowly feeling the life being drained from me and still listening. What am I listening for? Blessings? The weeping of a goddess? Curses and screams?

Perhaps we're just here for the entertainment of Hatoke-sama, if there is such.

There are some commands lingering in the air. I can hear them. If I had been born deaf, would this have still happened? Would I have been destined to lie on the ground like this?

We have no point in life.

There is no time left for regret. I don't feel the pain any longer. No... when you're minutes from your death, pain simply disappears and the thoughts on your mind increase ten-fold.

Ambition and power seem to be the clutches of evil now.

Lies have always filled my life. Anyone with the least bit of money know that. And I... a son of one who has money... Well, I don't understand anymore. I don't understand how their games and lies and the web of deception that kept the rich as they are...

Who thinks otherwise?

When I wanted to leave home, Father was angry. I was the heir to the small fortune, and being a greedy man, Father did not want anyone else to take it, including his brother's children. An only son of an old family that had strived to stay out of the war. I was promised so much and... at the same time, so little.

Who can save the common people from those spirits?

Funny thing is, I refused my father's orders to stay out of the revolution. Oh, he was angry. The fiery eyes, the beet red face... His screams and the words that he said. A voice that I would never hear again. Still, I defied him. I was brave and naive then. Not anymore.

Someone who is as great as a god...

No, when you're so close to departure to another world, you don't exactly count yourself as the innocent type. In fact, all you truly think about are people that you will never be able to help, things that you will never be able to do, emotions you will never again be able to feel or find.

Someone who is pure.

They say, if a baby dies, their last moments of life are as if they have lived an entire mortal lifetime. And when you look into their eyes, you see the eyes of one that has lived for many, many years. Wise and ancient eyes.

Is there even someone like that?

Perhaps that is like me. But no, I still don't feel anything. I feel... I feel, perhaps as if I've started something and never accomplished it. It feels like I have unfinished business that is so important...

Maybe in another world, another time.

It's like I left someone behind... But I don't remember anyone like that. I left before a marriage could be arranged, so love would have been hopeless anyway. Perhaps Sanosuke? No... I know he'll survive.

But who knows? Impossible to say.

He'll be a fighter, a rebel, and he'll be angry. He'll be furious at the government, like I am. For lying? For burning the dreams of men? For killing me?

It's not a subject you run across everyday.

He might... I suppose he saw me as a father, or an older brother. Definitely one that helps him, though... At least someone who was influenced by me in a good way. I only hope that my death won't bring him to destroy himself.

It's not a subject you run across every lifetime.

Like the people I thought I was promising the truth, what would really happen. They were all lies... When the Ishin arrived at our camp, I knew that something was terribly, horrifically wrong.

I should have thought about it earlier.

It's too late for that now. I know that, when we are destroyed and our memories defamed, our secrets will go with us. There will be no time to tell the people that we were only doing what we thought was right.

I should have thought about it when I had the chance.

We were never a match for the Ishin. What were we but merchants and farmers? Men who thought we were doing the work to insure the birth of a new era.

I should think about this now.

An era born of blood and sorrow. An era born of lies and sweetly poisoned words in the ears of the naive. An era born to show us that hope is possible. But, how can an era born of nightmares give rise to a golden dream?

Before I die.

I will never know. I know this well now. There's no way for me to survive and I am only happy that the lying Ishin will find me dead. They will desecrate my body after I pass to the next world.

And still... I am listening.

Before it's too late.

"Souzou... It's time to go."

Time to go where?

"Souzou, you've finished here. It's time to come home."

The words roll over me like soft waves over a pebble beach. My strength seems to be running away with the receding tide...


I can't find the words in my throat. I smile instead. I remember. I know. The revelation brushes into me like a beautiful accident–a rainbow over a grave. There is someone pure. We all are. The moment we die is the moment we are washed clean.

Instead of fear that comes with death, I feel warm. Safe. Protected. Because I've finished what I started after all. One day they'll know how wrong the Ishin had treated us. One day...

One day destiny will push us along. And as for me...

It's time to go home.