Disclaimer: Shiniji Obara owns the intellectual rights to Samurai Champloo. I own freezing fingers because I'm too miserly to turn up the heat. I own nothing and gain nothing, through the writing of this fic.

Jin's Overture

I open eyes to monochronistic day. Have I slept all night in wet clothing? The heaviness of my limbs would suggest as much. The heaviness of my soul begs to reveal the reason. For an instant, I shy from that offer; but it is counterintuitive to my nature. Girding my psyche to handle the reason, I beg revelation.

It comes, in flashes and sounds that bounce off jagged corners of my already fragmented soul. Mugen's betrayal is streaked in the crimson of his retreat. Yukimaru's scathing judgment rips across already raw nerves and scrapes the conscience I've tried hard to suppress. However, it's the final flash that causes my soul to fold its wings and diminish. The scream morphs, taking on a shape and reality of its own. Everything after that is subdued in white noise and fog.

Never before have I dreaded movement more than today. The decisions I've made have weighed heavy the last few months, often causing my step to falter and my shoulders to droop. The consequences of my actions have never caused me to dread the state of consciousness. Today I dread consciousness. I tried to drown it in the river yesterday. Death eluded me. Now I'm searching to find any dreaded state that would allow me to exist in a world where one no longer walks. Today I do not want to walk in a world where one other no longer exists.

There is no driving force to my motions, no reason to breathe. Suddenly I see it, a small bobbing something, unnatural in form. I know what it is even from here, the bob indicates a straw or cork creation, the red is that of a cloth thong. Standing, using the sheath of my katana as leverage, I slowly walk towards the distraction. It is my soul reason for existing today, and it has no pressing schedules to keep. Its wearer has no future place to be. Reaching it as it bobs in the eddy, I sigh; offering a prayer knowing a plea would be ineffective at this point.

A half-waterlogged shoe is a pathetic gift to the gods for a soul of such beauty. Nevertheless, I pick it up and put it in my robe, just under that organ that continues to beat despite my protests. If I'm lucky, I'll find the match to further tempt the gods. Even if I don't, maybe the gods will show pity on a man who no longer has a heart to mourn with.

In the space of moments in time, but referenced as ages; the world has cloaked itself in hues of grey and drab. My brain tells my soul the sun is shining, but my soul has become blind and is unable to see it. The water is no longer refreshing in its clarity. Now all it holds is a nasty surprise in the form of a bloated or mangled corpse of a fair woman-child.

How do I see her? Is she a woman, prancing around with childish glee at the simplest things imaginable? Or is she a child, looking at me through eyes that have aged years in just months? I have to stop, I'm still speaking in present. Neither matters, she is no more. Is denotes a possible will. Was denotes a termination. Permanent terminations mean that I must put possible futures aside for the present past.

Wanting to howl; but knowing that would require more of me to live than current is willing, I hold it in. Hoping desperately that the other shoe is still attached to the wearer, I continue the search. The rocks are steep on both sides, mocking my plea for someone else to find the body first. If I'm not the discoverer, than I can pretend for a little longer.

Suddenly I hear it, a sound that opens the world. It's like watching the sun rise over Fujiyama after fifty days of rain. It's the sound of my soul's partial redemption, and suddenly the world is sprawled with color. I see it in smears and brush jabs as my body instinctively reacts.

There she is, a trembling huddled form; screaming at a bakemono on the cliff. I look but it's a phantom, gone in the breeze. Slowing to a sedate walk, I struggle to catch my breath. Now I stand only an arm's breadth away. It's an in attainable distance, she could be standing on the other side of a cliff. I struggle to overcome that yawning gap, but her first words to me widen it. She's more concerned with the rooster than the koi, so the koi responds in kind.

Holding up the shoe, I watch her face soften. Suddenly she looks behind me, and I realize she's searching for someone. The short dialog is unproductive to me, and the small glance at the hastily made bed does even less to reassure my questing heart.

Girl or woman? What was my earlier decision? She's definitely a woman, a conniving tempestuous beast who doesn't know her own heart. Why would she suddenly sleep with a stranger when she had two more familiar options at her disposal? These thoughts fuddle my brain, and I take a second look. This time I notice only one indention. She obviously slept alone. Shamed by my lasciviousness, I revise my decision, she's still a girl only looking to fill the void of male influence.

Before I have a chance to say more, to reason through these janus thoughts, the nightmare reappears. The form of judge and executioner, sword in hand. He yells judgments upon me, his own interpretations. My actions were regrettable, but necessary. He stands from there and tries to see the world through my eyes. He cannot. He hasn't walked my path, he hasn't lived my guilt. I look into his forbidding eyes and see only one shining truth, he's already lost.

He was closer than a brother in my previous life, but now he threatens my future. Ten minutes ago, I'd have given it to him. Now life throbs through my veins, emphasizing the wild palate of colors found in a foggy morn. His decision to pursue me has cemented his fate. If he succeeded against me, she would fall as a consequence. Ten minutes ago, she was dead. I won't lose her again.

A/N: Jin is a complicated fellow, and he is full of contradictions right now. I hope this does justice to the character. -TK