He waited in the shadow of the alley, watching the passersby with narrowed eyes, from across the way he saw the cherry red end of a cigarette and scowled, damn that Fujita. He was just trying to reveal their position. Not that it would matter. There came the sound of shuffling feet from not too far away. Kenji pressed himself against the wall, clenching the handle of the shinai. What he wouldn't give for a real katana... The sounds came closer, followed by the heavy breathing of a man on the run. The culprit himself appeared, clutching a cloth bundle in his hands. His expression was strained as he glanced furtively over his shoulder as if he was being pursued. Kenji smirked. Well he wouldn't have that fear for long.

"That wasn't yours to take."

Kenji cursed low under his breath as Fujita's voice rolled casually out of the darkness in the timbre of a man rather then the usual boyish squeak. The thief turned toward Fujita, presenting his narrow back to Kenji. The boy stiffened, clenching his hands and feeling a knot rise in his throat.

"Who..who's there?" the man said.

"Just someone concerned with the welfare of the community," Fujita said, stepping out of the alley and flicking his cigarette onto the street. The man was still turned toward him. Still such an easy target.

"What's your name? Where are you from? You know stealing is a crime, don't you?" Fujita asked. The man stuttered and stumbled, each fumble making Kenji more and more annoyed.

"Damnit, Fujita, you're doing this on purpose!" Kenji snapped, stepping out of his own hiding place. The older boy tried to give him a mild look, but Kenji could see the upward twist of his mouth.

"I'm just giving you a little help."

"I don't need your help!" Kenji snarled. The thief turned toward him, face pale.

"Who...who are you two? What do you want from me?" He clutched the bundle tightly to his chest.

"Forget that," Kenji said, placing both hands on the shinai's worn handle. "You took something that didn't belong to you. That's called stealing and now you're going to pay for it."

"No...no please, you don't understand."

"Did you steal it?" Kenji asked, balancing himself back.

"Well...well yes I did, but..."

"Then you're going to get what you deserve." Without another word, Kenji pushed himself off the ground and flung himself forward, smirking as the wind pulled at his hair. He jabbed the shinai into the man's stomach. The thief gave a little yelp and stumbled forward. Kenji twisted behind him, took a moment to check his footing, then swung the shinai around, catching the man in the small of his back. There was a terrific smack and the man squealed like a pig as he stumbled and fell hard onto the street, the package rolling from his fingers and opening to reveal lumps of western style bread.

"Bread?" Kenji scowled and prodded the whimpering man in the thigh with the tip of his shinai. "That is pathetic."

There was the sound of slow clapping and Kenji glared at Fujita whose smirk had only grown as he bought his hands together. "And so the streets of Tokyo are safe from one more bread thief."

"Shut up," Kenji snapped, having the feeling he'd been had all along. He slid the shinai into the ties of his hakama like it was a real sword and ignored Fujita's little chuckle, then thought a moment and picked up the man's loot. There was nothing hidden among the mostly stale loaves. No impressive valuables, no secret government papers. What a waste. Someone had just called out stop thief!' and he'd gone. In hind sight, he probably should have seen who it was. Sighing, Kenji dug out two of the freshest loaves and tossed one to Fujita before dropping the bag to the ground. Fujita caught the bread easily and the two walked from the narrow street onto the main thoroughfare. The marketplace was closing down for the day and there were only a few stragglers left.

"I hate this city," Kenji said, tearing into the bread and finding it was a bit stale as well. What kind of thief was he to only steal bad bread?

"You just hate it because you can't get what you want," Fujita said, taking his western pocket watch out of his western vest and clicking it open to check the time. "Face it, Himura; the age of the sword is long gone."

Kenji couldn't help but glare at the boy. Fujita was only a few years older than him, but just because he was taller he seemed to think he knew everything. Even more annoying was that he was so much taller he made Kenji look even younger then he already was. Fujita was wiry too, not an ounce of what mother so annoyingly wanted to call "baby fat", and walked with the easy grace of a swordsman. The only fault Kenji could find with him was that his chin was so sharp he could probably skewer meat on it.

"It will be back," Kenji said, folding his hands in his sleeves. "People will realize that the old ways were a lot better." He couldn't see how people liked all this western stuff anyway. It wasn't a bit Japanese. Western clothes were too strange and most of their gadgets did nothing but make a lot of noise.

"Don't be so naïve, I'm already embarrassed enough to be seen with you."

"The feeling is exactly the same," Kenji said, glaring straight ahead. He wasn't sure what naïve meant but coming from Fujita it couldn't be anything less than an insult. He didn't understand why Fujita took it so lightly. He was even better then Kenji with a sword and his father was a great swordsman too. But with all these western guns, swords were quickly being forgotten. Everyone was so in love with the west. It was disgusting.

"I almost wish the Shouganate had won the war," he muttered. Fujita laughed, showing his annoyingly sharp canines. Kenji clenched his hands into fists. "What?!"

"You don't have any idea what you're talking about, little boy," Fujita said. Kenji saw the older boy's hand coming for his face but there was no time to move before the short, sharp, annoying sting as Fujita flicked him in the forehead. That was it.

"Come on!" he snapped, pulling his shinai from his waist and moving in front of Fujita, glaring at him along the bamboo's length. "Fight me, you obnoxious bastard!"

"All right, then," Fujita said with a smirk. Before Kenji could move, Fujita kicked the shinai out of the way in one fluid motion, then darted forward, hooking an arm around Kenji's throat and yanking him back. Kenji dropped the shinai to grab at Fujita's arm, trying to pull it away.

"Ahh!" he yelped as Fujita began to rub his knuckles hard across Kenji's head.

"This is how little boys get treated," Fujita said, rubbing even harder.

"Gaah, get off, you bastard!"

"Make me."

"Fine!" It wasn't fair that Fujita was so much stronger then him! Kenji struggled in the older boy's grip, finally managing to squirm enough to sink his teeth in Fujita's arm. He bit down hard, tasting blood on this tongue. Fujita yelped, letting him go and snapping out a hand to shove him back. Kenji took the scant second he had to dodge to slip his fingers across Fujita's vest and snicked out his watch. The taller boy's hand connected with his stomach and he oofed as he was driven back a step or two.

"You little rat," Fujita said, lifting his arm to inspect his sleeve. "I hope you haven't given me rabies."

"I hope you haven't given me food poisoning," Kenji said, scooping up his shinai and stepping out of Fujita's range. "But if I get it, I'm sure this will help pay for my medicine," he said, holding up the watch and flipping it between his fingers. The silver glinted in the sun. Fujita blinked at him, glanced at his vest pocket, then looked at him again, eyes narrowed.

"Give that back, Himura. Right now."

"Come and get it," Kenji said with a grin. Fujita lunged at him and Kenji danced back. Fujita might be taller and stronger, but Kenji was much faster and more agile on top of that. Fujita snarled and lunged again, for the right this time, then coming from the left. Kenji stayed a step or two out of his reach, watching every move with narrowed eyes. One slip up and— He bumped into someone hard. Fujita's fist flew out, coming straight toward him. Kenji gritted his teeth and ducked. Fujita hit hard and an unfamiliar voice yelped in pain. Kenji took the moment of distraction to scramble out of the way and when he was a relatively safe distance, turned to see that the older boy had hit an unsuspecting fish monger right in the back. What was left of the days catch was now on the ground, some spilling into the next vendor's large bowls.

"Do you have something against fish, Fujita?" Kenji called. The boy glared at him and started to come toward him but then the fish monger turned around and grabbed Fujita by the collar.

"And just where do you think you're going, punk? I've got a whole days worth of fish that I can't sell anymore. Plus a bruise on my back. What are you going to do about it."

"It was an accident," Fujita said, trying to pry the man's large fist from his collar. "I'd appreciate it if you would let me go."

"Like hell I will! You pick up all those fish--"

"And wash out these bowls!" the bowl merchant said, putting her hands on her hips.

"And wash out those bowls," continued the fish monger. "And I might reconsider asking your father to pay for the damages."

Fujita clenched his hands into fists and for a moment looked like he was going to fight. Then he sighed and bowed his head.

"Yes, sir."

"And an apology wouldn't be out of order either."

"I'm sorry, sir."

Kenji grinned so hard his face hurt. This was better then he could have hoped. The great and mighty Fujita, reduced to picking up half rotten fish out of the street. He put the shinai back at his waist so he could toss the watch back and forth between his hands.

"If you had any honor in you, you'd be doing this too," said Fujita as he picked up a slimy catfish that had been dead for far longer then a day.

"I'm not picking anything up," Kenji said. "I'm not the moron who hit him."

Fujita scowled, his fist clenching around the catfish. Kenji took a few steps back, both to get away from the resounding smell and to give them some distance just in case Fujita decided to attack.

"You watch your mouth!" the older boy snarled. Kenji grinned and resumed flipping the watch up into the air. Fujita's hand twitched around the fish, his fingers digging into the slimy dead skin. Oh, he was mad. Too bad Fujita didn't even carry a shinai with him or Kenji could have goaded him into a real fight.

"Oh that's right." Kenji stopped flipping the watch and instead tapped it lightly against his chin in thought. "It would be bad for other people to know that. After all, isn't the motto of your family baka soku zan?"

Fujita's fingernails cut into the fish, gray liquid oozed from the openings and Kenji wrinkled his nose. Ugh. How disgusting.

"Stop fooling around!" the old bowl vendor snapped. "I can't wait around here all day, you know!"

"Sorry, Ma'am," Fujita said with a bow. Kenji rolled his eyes. Fujita may be a better swordsman then he was, but he was still an idiot. If anyone had said anything like that to him, Kenji would have never let them get away with it! But that was the difference between them. Fujita just didn't have the right attitude about anything. He watched him a bit longer, trying to think of something else to goad him with. After a while, he gave up. It didn't matter anyway, it wasn't as if Fujita was armed. He really wasn't worth fighting. Besides, if he got caught fighting in the streets again Mama would make him stay in the house until he was fifteen!

"If you want your precious watch back, you have to fight me for it," Kenji said, flipping it into the air. Fujita didn't even look at him as he picked up a flounder gingerly from a wooden bowl and tossed it back into fish monger's basket.

"Tomorrow then," the older boy said, picking up the last fish. "In the woods near Rakuninmura." Fujita narrowed his eyes. Kenji tilted his head up and met Fujita's steely yellow eyes. Fujita didn't intimidate him one bit.

"I'll be there," he said. The corner of Fujita's mouth twisted up but his eyes remained narrow and cold.

"I just hope your mother doesn't cry too much when I carry your pathetic little corpse home."

"I hope your mother doesn't lose her mind when they can't find yours."

Kenji flipped the watch up into the air once more and caught it in his sleeve. Then turned and walked away, trying to keep a serious face. Inside he was smiling. Finally, a real match with Fujita. He'd never been in a real fight before, mostly just learning matches with Mama's students. That was boring. He was better then any of them and besides, Mama said that he had to teach them, not just beat them up. Though if they weren't so clumsy he wouldn't have such a hard time.

The walk home was uneventful. No villains that needed to be stopped ran across his path, no one in trouble. The only thing even somewhat eventful was an old man toddling out of his house, looking around, then ambling back in again. Kenji sighed. This city was so very boring. His spirits lightened somewhat as the dojo came into view. He picked up his pace. The cherry tree that had been planted when he was born was almost over the wall now and in full bloom. The slightest wind would send pink and white petals everywhere. He should climb it and pick a few for mother.

He stopped before the wall, gathering his legs under him and jumped. He missed the ledge by a few inches and only managed a fall by grabbing onto it, the hard concrete digging into his palm. Grumbling to himself, he slapped the other hand on the ledge as well and kicked himself up. There was a soft tear and as he rose to stand on the wall he saw that his hakama was ripped.

He cursed softly. This was the fourth time this week. Mama was going to give him quite a few lumps if she had to sew it again and flowers wouldn't be enough to placate her. Stupid wall.

Though maybe... Plucking a few flowers from the top most branch just for luck, he jumped down, only stumbling a little. A high pitched giggle floated on the wind and he couldn't help but smile. Absently tucking the flowers behind his ear, he followed the sounds of the laughter until he found Inoi and Shinta playing behind the shed. Inoi's back was turned to him, but Shinta saw him and his mouth split into a wide grin, revealing the missing front tooth. Kenji put a finger to his lips and Shinta nodded.

Flexing his fingers, Kenji crept up behind Inoi. No sooner then he had come a finger length from her then she screamed "Attack!" and he found himself with an armful of little sister, mercilessly tickling his ribs.

"Ahh!" Kenji yelped, the force of her attack sending him to his rear. With a wild woop, Shinta joined her and soon Kenji was writhing with laughter under their tickling fingers and trying not to inhale Shinta's thick black hair as the boy leaned over him.

"Enough, enough," he said when he could finally breathe. The twins relented. Shinta rose to his feet and for a moment, Inoi looked like she was going to as well, but then her lower lip pulled out and before Kenji could stand himself, she sat on his legs, folding her arms.

"Where have you been, niichan?" she said, violet eyes stern in her small face. Kenji smiled, leaning back on his hands.

"Out and about," he said, amused and a little frightened at how much Inoi looked like their mother.

"You've been fighting again, haven't you? Papa says he doesn't like you hanging around the Fujitas."

Kenji blinked a little startled. Before he could speak, Shinta broke in.

"Niichan was out practicing. He told me so! With Kazuo."

"Then why does he have bruises?" Inoi said. Her eyes narrowed. "And he smells like that funny smoke."

"It's none of your business what I was doing," Kenji said, suddenly a little annoyed. The bruises were from Kazuo actually, but only because Myojin Kazuo cheated in just about everything.

He got up, dumping his little sister off his lap. Shinta looked up at him, tugging on the edge of his sleeve.

"You weren't fighting, were you? And you weren't with Fujita, were you?"

"Not fighting," he said honestly. Winning. He picked up his shinai from where it had fallen on the ground.

"Inoi! Shinta! Supper!" Mama's call rang out across the courtyard. Kenji put a hand to his stomach. Maybe he should have stayed out a bit longer.

"I'm telling!" Inoi said. "And I'm telling her you ripped your hakama again too!"

"Don't you dare!" Kenji snapped, reaching for her, but she'd already rushed off. Probably directly into Mama's line of sight,

"Again?" Shinta said, crouching and peering at Kenji's hakama. "Mama is going to get really mad at you."

Not if he could change out of them first. "Go distract her," he said, pulling his brother to his feet and giving him a little shove. Shinta balked.

"I don't want to!"

"Come on, don't be such a little coward! Here." He felt around in his hair, found the flowers missing and finally spotted them lying broken on the ground. He grabbed them up and stuffed them into Shinta's small hand. "Give her these and tell her she's beautiful. She always falls for that one."

"But..." Shinta said with a frown.

"Do it!" Kenji hissed, pushing a little harder. Shinta hesitated a moment, then took off, bare feet slapping against the earth.

Kenji waited a moment or two, then crept close to the edge of the shed, pressing himself flat against the wood and peering around the corner. Mother stood on the engawa, listening to something Inoi was saying. She was wearing a dark blue kimono that showed the rounded bulge of their new sibling. Her head snapped up suddenly and he sucked in his breath, pressing himself even flatter, wishing he could become absorbed into the wood. But it seemed that it was only Shinta that caught her attention, racing up to her and waving a handful of wilted flowers.

He watched as she took the tiny broken blossoms in her hands. Then, counted to ten under his breath and made a run for it, dashing across the courtyard to the back of the house as fast as he possibly could.

He reached it safely enough and kicked off his shoes before hopping up on the engawa and carefully sliding back the shoji. There was no one about but faint sounds coming from the kitchen meant that father had either cooked or was trying to salvage whatever Mama had made while she was distracted elsewhere. In either case, he would have to slip by before he was caught. As he approached the kitchen, he kept himself close to the wall. The smells coming from the room were good, which meant that father had probably done the cooking. Part of him uncoiled with relief. As he came to the doorway, he once again pressed himself against the wall and peered around. Father's back was to him as he stirred something. That didn't mean anything. Father always seemed to know he was around. He would have to be extra careful. Holding his breath, Kenji started to sneak by him.

"I'm glad you made it home, dinner is just about ready," father said pleasantly, causing Kenji to freeze in mid-stride. "But you really shouldn't hang around Saitou Tsutomu, de gozaru." Kenji scowled. Damn Fujita and his damned cigarettes.

"His name is Fujita," Kenji said stiffly. Father finished whatever it was he was doing and turned around, fixing Kenji a smile that matched the tone of his voice. Pleasant, polite, and completely fake.

"A wolf by any other name is still a wolf. In either case..." he trailed off and sighed. "That's the fourth time this week."

Kenji wondered what he was talking about, then remembered his hakama. Rather than admit he still couldn't jump over the wall, he folded his arms tightly across his chest and stared off down the hall, staring hard at the shoji. Father sighed. "Well we still have some time to fix you up before dinner. Come on."

Kenji stiffened, wanting to refuse. He wasn't a child; he didn't need to be taken care of all his life. On the other hand the alternative was mother. Kenji nodded curtly and started down the hall toward his room. Father's arm slipped over his shoulders. The warmth and the weight of it made Kenji relax in spite of himself. No matter how fake his Father's smiles usually were, this... this was different. He let out a long breath, feeling his frustration drain away. It looked like he was still a kid in some ways. He moved just a little bit closer to his papa's side. A ghost of a smile drifted across Father's face and he squeezed his shoulder gently.

"I can take care of myself you know," he grumbled, not that he was particularly angry anymore, but there was no need to let Father know that.

"I know you can," Father said. "But Tsutomu goads you into trouble so easily. Especially around cabbages for some reason."

Kenji stiffened as Father moved around him to slide back the shoji that lead to his room. "There's no proof that that even happened!" he snapped, glaring into his father's smiling face.

"The truth remains whether there is proof or not. Besides, I know you." He clapped a large hand onto Kenji's head and ruffled his fingers in his hair. "You'd find trouble in a locked room." There was some amusement to Father's voice and Kenji had the distinct feeling he was being laughed at. Scowling, he pushed his father's hand away and marched into his room.

Once inside Kenji slumped against the wall, folding his arms tightly across his chest and glaring at the man who just stood there, smiling at him. He'd heard all the stories, countless times from many different people. The tales of the great battousai and then the gentle wanderer who nonetheless managed to save his country more than once. When he was a kid, he had believed every word. But now, looking at his father highlighted by the glow of the setting sun, he knew better. Himura Kenshin wasn't a warrior. He was just a man, just a father. There were gray streaks in his red hair and lines around his eyes. Even the legendary scars on his cheek were merely thin lines, almost completely invisible. Kenji had seen him all stiff in the mornings and had seen him limp when he thought Mama wasn't looking. His days as a swordsman were long gone, if they had ever existed at all. Faded into some grainy history.

Father's smile faded a bit. "Aaa... That's a look I've seen many times."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Kenji asked, more than a little annoyed. He hated it when Father said strange things. And it was even more annoying when he didn't explain them. The smile was back almost immediately and Father held up his hands.

"Never mind. Now, stay there. I'll be right back…" He stood just as there was a light knock on the shoji. Kenji stiffened, ready to bolt. Father smiled warmly.

"Aaa, your mother wouldn't knock, my Kenji."

Kenji relaxed a bit. That was true. Still, if it was Inoi, it wouldn't be much better. He shifted so he could see who was standing on the other side as father opened the shoji. Shinta stood there, holding a wooden box in his small hands.

"Papa, Kenji-niichan has a rip in his hakama," Shinta said, holding up the box. "You better sew it up before Inoi tells Mama."

Instead of bending down, Father knelt to Shinta's level and took the box from him. Father's smile seemed to grow even warmer as he looked at the little boy, his entire face softening. Kenji rolled his eyes and looked away.

"Thank you, Shinta-chan. Why don't you go help your Mama put out dinner….and…make sure she doesn't try to…improve on it."

"Okay, Papa."

Kenji plopped down cross legged on the floor, turning his head to watch as Shinta ran down the hall. Father shut the shoji and knelt in front of him. He watched his father pull out a needle and squint in the dim light as he tried to thread it. Even though he was glad that it wasn't his Mama, Kenji was still a little annoyed. What kind of man sewed, anyway? Uncle Yahiko didn't sew, and he couldn't imagine Fujita's father anywhere near a needle.

"So what were you out doing today?" Father said, lifting the hakama and starting to push the needle through it. Kenji shrugged. Even though he wasn't much of a swordsman, Father seemed to know anything. He could pick out the truth of whatever Kenji said, no matter how he said it. Instead he just sat in silence, watching Father work. The light fell on them both, making an orangy triangle on the sleeve of Father's soft green gi. It was old and worn, patched so many times like all of their clothes it seemed. He glanced up the sleeve, picking out the little imperfections. Father was just like his gi, Kenji couldn't help but think, glancing at a thin white scar along his father's neck. There was another one on his collarbone, a few across his chest. Old scars, but still evidence of someone who'd been beaten often.

Well that was never going to happen to him. He was going to beat everyone that ever challenged him. Even if they were fifteen and stronger than him by far. But if he was going to beat him, he wasn't going to do it with a shinai or a bokken. He needed something a lot better. Though asking for something like that… Well he knew he really couldn't ask Mama. Not if he didn't want another lesson in the principals of the Kamiya Kasshin style anyway. But maybe…



Kenji hesitated. How to word this? It had to be just right.

"I'm thirteen now. Almost a man."

Father smiled and Kenji narrowed his eyes. It almost seemed like Father was laughing at him. Well he was almost a man! Yahiko-ji was fighting people at ten even so if he was a man at that age, then Kenji was even more of one!

"I am a man!" he said hotly.

"Aaa, that you are," Father said, trying off the string and breaking it off before sitting back. "Almost."

Kenji's bit down. Why did Father have to add the almost'? Kenji was man. More than his father realized.

"I want a sword," he bit out. "A real one."

Father's expression shifted a little, the smile was still on his face but there was a hardness in his eyes and something else to. Something Kenji couldn't place.

"You don't need a sword, Kenji." he said, sounding a little tired as he put the needle and thread away. "Why do you want one? Is someone threatening you?"

"No," Kenji said, a little irritated. Even if someone was, it wasn't anything Kenji couldn't handle himself. "But I want one." A shinai just wasn't enough for him anymore.

"The Kamiya Kasshin style is not one that requires a bladed weapon."

"I know all that!" Kenji snapped. "But I don't want to do that style. I want to do my own style. I want to learn the Hiten Mitsurugi. I want a sword." It all came in a rush. He wanted Father to understand, even as he had the sinking feeling that wasn't going to happen.

"A sword only leads to bloodshed," Father said, gathering the box and standing. "Not only will you be in danger, but the ones closest to you as well."

"But…but a sword can protect as well," Kenji said, staring hard at his father. That was true! And Father liked to protect people. Or at least he used to. Besides, that was what the Kamiya Kasshin style was all about, wasn't it? The sword that protected.

"So can a bokken or a shinai. You don't need a sword and I don't ever want to see you with one, is that clear?"

"That's just stupid!" Kenji yelled, jumping to his feet and balling his hands into fists. "Even Fujita has one!"

"What Saitou chooses to do with his own family makes no difference. You're not to have a sword, Kenji."

"That's not fair!"

"Life isn't fair." Father's face softened a little. "But sometimes a shinai or a bokken are even better then swords." His voice had gone back to being almost pleasant, but there was still rebuke in it. Kenji glared at him, clenching and unclenching his fists. How could he not understand!? He was supposed to be the great swordsman, yet he was forcing Kenji to be stuck with a stupid shinai. Father just wanted him to be weak for the rest of his life, that was all.

"It will be all right," Father said, reaching out for him. "You'll understand one day."

"Shut up," Kenji snapped, avoiding his touch. "You're the one that doesn't understand. Even though you should."

Father didn't say anything. Not a single damn thing. Just looked at him, his face completely unreadable. Suddenly Kenji hated him. Hated looking at him. Hated even being in the same house. He stalked from the room, slamming open the shoji and nearly running into Mama who was coming toward his room.

"Dinner's ready, Kenji," she said with a strained smile.

"I'm not hungry," he snarled, moving past her. Something grabbed his sleeve and he glanced down to see Shinta hanging onto him.

"Don't go, Kenji," the boy pleaded.

"Let me go, Shinta."

"But I want you to be here! I want to sit beside you at dinner!"

He was so whiny. I want to sit beside you at dinner! Such a little suck up. Kenji was sick of him. Sick of everything.

"I said get off!" He shoved Shinta. His little brother took a few steps back, tripped over his own stupid feet and fell back.

"Shinta!" Mama said. There was a slight tremor in the floor and suddenly Papa was there, catching Shinta before he could crash into the wall.

"Are you all right?" Father asked. Shinta blinked a few times, then tears welled in his eyes and he started crying, wrapping his arms around Father's neck. Kenji rolled his eyes. Shinta hadn't even been hurt. The little wimp.

"Kenji, you shouldn't pick on your little brother like that!" Mother said, putting a hand on her belly as if to protect it.

"I wasn't picking on him! I just gave him a little push! It's not like I hit him with the shinai!"

"If all you're going to do is bully others then you don't deserve a shinai," Father said in a hard voice. "Much less a sword."

It was just a push! Shinta would go through much worse when he started training! Why was everyone going against him today?! It just wasn't fair!

"Fine! Then I don't want this stupid shinai!" He tore it from his back and threw it down the hall. "I'll just become a weak little coward just like the rest of the family!"

"You're the weak one, Kenji!" It was Inoi who said it; she had come out from around Mama and was folding her arms, glaring at him. He was tempted to shove her too. "All you know how to do is be mean to people because you can't get what you want."

Hmph. She was just a little girl. What did she understand about anything. Well fine. If they were all going to be against him, then let them. He would just go…stay somewhere else. Turning on his heel, he stomped out of the house, slamming the shoji hard behind them. He didn't need them anyway! Who cared? He would go get something to eat and get his own sword! And he would kick Fujita's ass then go on his way to becoming the strongest swordsman in all of Japan. He would and he wouldn't let anyone stop him. Not even Father.