Shinobi are tools, nothing more. They are, in essence, the extension of a daimyo or shogun in order to increase his influence. We are glorified kunai, to cut and cut and not care why. So why do I question that life now?
We are what we are.
So why do I feel this way when I look at you? You were young, and not necessarily innocent when I found you, but now you are my perfect tool. You forged yourself for me, a kunai worthy to be wielded with impunity. Were I one to hand out foolish praise like a teacher, I would say that you could be my equal.
But that boy…that noisy, bratty shinobi showed me a power completely beyond anything I could have done. He reforged himself to defeat you, and in doing so, reforged you. You shattered in his hands and he reshaped you, reformed you into something infinitely more beautiful. He made you into something I could not.
He made you stronger.
Was I really that important to you? Did you really care about my dreams, my desires? Was I more than just your tool, in order for you to not feel lonely? I want to believe that was so, that someone in this world actually…
I don't dare. I don't deserve to have such hope. I want to know that you cared, and yet I don't, for the sheer fact that I fear I already know what the answer will be. I'd rather leave you in peace, anyway. Angels and demons shouldn't associate too much anyway, it makes you look bad, to be seen with me.
I've already taken your life, isn't that enough? …he betrayed me. He's standing there like it was he that put the smoking hole in your chest, and not that you stepped in front of me, to die for me. My tool…my blessed, cursed tool.
He says he owes you, for breaking his arm. Well, some debts have to be repaid in full, and he owes me more than you owe him. I intend to collect. The kunai in my arms don't matter anymore. The spears and halberds of his trash subordinates don't matter anymore. All that matters is that I am the demon of the Mist, and he is a piece of trash. I am the master of silent killing, but this man's death is not silent. He dies, squealing, like the pig he is. Some debts are paid in full, and some I collect with interest.
It feels good, to take his life for what he has done. I know it is wrong, and yet, it feels good. As a tool, I have nothing more to accomplish, and so my strength wanes and I fall to my knees. The posture is reverent, but there is nothing holy about me. I am a killer. A slayer of families and breaker of wills. A devourer of spirits. Blood falls in a macabre rain as my suicidal charge through his trash subordinates finishes. He spirals off the bridge; the last image he sees as he descends into Hell is my grinning face, and the lips curling back from my teeth in a smile that befits my victory.
For one such as I, there is no better victory.
"I want to see him. I want…to see his face." The words fall from my lips almost breathlessly. The man with the sleepy eye nods, and lifts me easily. The irony of this is that I will die as helplessly as I was born, and I think that God and Buddha are laughing at me together in heaven. I don't blame them. It amuses me too, for some reason.
The sight of your broken body is a shock of cold water on nerves already stretched taut by the battle, and I realize that I'm crying. Why do I weep for you? My tool. You knew what you were getting into when you left with me. You did what you were supposed to do. I don't weep when a knife breaks, or when I use up an exploding tag.
Throughout my long, bloody career, I have never shed a tear for anything or anyone. They were my pawns, and I played them all exquisitely. I was alone, but I made use of my tools. Children don't weep over broken toys, and I was no exception. I was lucky anyway. I always had someone new to play with by the time one broke.
…snow? Are you crying?
Don't cry. Your pain is gone. I've even gotten revenge for you, as pitiful as it was. You said before, that if you cried, it would only get worse for you. Don't cry; show them your strength.
Oh. You're crying for me.
Don't. There's no use crying over someone who is willingly damned. I chose my path, and now isn't the time for atonement. I'm dying. I can tell by the way my body is slowing down. Even the most powerful of tools outlives its usefulness, and I suppose I've reached a good end.
Your skin is still warm, even in the snow, and the way it's melting, it really does look as if you're crying. I reach up to brush away the moisture. My arms…they're so heavy. I wish I could die and face my fate. I wish this silly game would end. I'm sorry…I failed.
I was your tool, your salvation. You weren't alone anymore, even though all I could offer you was death. It was far worse than loneliness. My sight is starting to dim, and my arms, they're getting heavier. This really does look like the end. I'm surprised, in a detached way, that this is taking so much time. Maybe it's because I expected a quick death. A flash in the pan to snuff the candle.
I realize I'm talking, but I think I'm speaking nonsense. My tongue is heavy, and I think I sound like someone mimicking a hero's death. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, and all that.
My world is starting to fade, and so I stare hard at your face, so that I know to burn that sweet smile in my memory. I know that when I'm in Hell, this will be what I atone for. I also want to remember your smile, so when I burn, I know that I'll have something to hold to keep the other demons at bay.
You look so peaceful. It must be because you died believing in me. Or maybe it was because you were already dead when that bratty kid took your purpose away by defeating you. When you stepped in front of Raikiri, my soul wrenched. After all this time, I thought my soul would have fled this killer's husk. Maybe…maybe souls grow back.
Maybe you helped.
I'd rather it be you who saved me. For you to work so hard and for me to give back so little, maybe I gained a little redemption out of it in the end. You were always by my side. I'd like to be by your side, in the end.
…If I could go to the same place as you, I'd like to. You were as pure as the snow. Maybe I, a demon stained with blood, can find redemption in you.
For Raven-Leigh, who was my redemption for the longest time, and who showed me what it means to truly love someone. Thank you.