A/N: This ONE SHOT was written for the live journal community rk(undersore)challenge of Fear.

His heart was racing, but his cold features gave none of his nervousness away. Never in his life had he been more scared and uneasy, but this was necessary. He had to break his ties to his old life and this was the only way. This was the only way to move forward and take the title of the strongest and give it to his fallen comrades.

As he faced Okina-san memories rushed through him. This had been his mentor, this was a man he respected, how could he face him? He took those feelings and buried them deep within himself; they had no use to him now.

He felt cold, so cold, Okina was old it was true, but could he beat him? Could he kill him? Again he took these feelings and buried them inside himself. He would do what was necessary, he'd do what was needed to be the strongest. Nothing else mattered. He reached for his kodachi.

Misao was out of breath as she made her way towards the shed. She was conflicted on what she wanted to find. The only thing she wanted to know for sure was she wanted them both to be there unharmed. Please, let them both be there unharmed.

She opened the door and her heart fluttered when she saw the two of them inside. It was obvious that they had been fighting, but no one looked too injur - until Okina fell with a yell and her worst fear was confirmed.

He fell with a spray of blood and time seemed to stop.

Aoshi sheathed his weapon, his own worst fear also happening. Misao had seen Okina's death, but this worked well for him too.

He walked past her without a glance, stopping only to sever his ties with his past life even more. He turned his back on her, with nothing left to be tied to, nothing left to fear. Without love, without someone to protect, without someone to care about you, there can be no more fear.