A/N: I wrote this for the live journal community rk(underscore)challenge theme of mask. This idea was inspired by an icon I saw. I wish I could credit the person who made the icon but for the life of me I can't remember who's it is. I spent nearly two hours trying to randomly going around to different journals I've know I've seen it in but just CAN'T find it! So… if you have this icon… uh thanks for the inspiration!

Age 5

Shinta - So innocent. So peaceful. Just a small boy, laughing, playing, living. Warm and safe in his parents arms. Not knowing that the world is full of evils.

Age 9

Growing up so fast. Sickness, death, slavery, poverty. New concepts the boy must learn, but he his not alone. Women other than his mother keep him close and safe. Love forms and the boy is content with this new life, until he learns a new word.

Murder.

Blood splatters his clothes as his safety is ripped away from him though death yet again. The boy is alone, saved by a strange man than left alone. Small hands dig into the cold dirt. Small hands burry the dead. Small tears fall from such a big heart.

The man returns, a new name, a start, a new person.

Age 14

Kenshin - Discipline, finesse, agility, hope, grace. All things learned and mastered. The boy hears of the horrors of war. Innocent one. Clean one. He believes he can change things, he can make people happy.

Runaway.

Discipline, finesse, agility, hope, grace. Misused.

Tainted. Dirty. The blood flows.

Age 15

Battòsai - Harsh, cold, killer, alone. The boy becomes a man. The ideals are still there but everything else has been stripped away. To live, to protect, to kill. A black note. A death. Just one more in the never ending war.

Rain falls. Blood.

Confusion, love, trust, hope. All bodied in one person. Soft spoken and shy, the boy is no longer alone. He lives for a reason, to protect. To protect her happiness.

Betrayal, hurt, confusion, pain.

But love pulls through. A lost love, the boy cries as his love leaves him.

Age 18

Rurouni - A new start, a promise, a sakabato. A new adventure begins and the boy is alone. His first step towards a new life and a new beginning.

Age 28

Adventure, travels, lessons learned, experience. Ten years gone in a blink of an eye. He's been all over Japan. He's seen so many things. He's grown so much, but he still feels tainted. His past never far behind.

A case of mistaken identity - although correct in the end - and the man is no longer alone. New friends, new adventures, new love.

Love, hope, past, future, fear. Fireflies.

He can't taint her. He can't ignore his past. He must leave her forever, it's what's best for her. He blocks out the sound of her tears.

Hurt, pain, confusion, alone.

She comes for him. His heart stops, no one chases after one as stained as he.

"Welcome home, Kenshin."

He smiles. A Rurouni no longer. He takes her hand.

Age 35

Father - Happy, content, safe, warm. He places his hand on his son's head, smiling brightly. His son can grow up safe in this new era and the man can finally rest.

Home, love, peace.