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Yahiko thrusts his sword upward in the air. He repeated this motion relentlessly, numb to his body's aches. Stronger, his mind chanted. I have to—no, will get stronger! Transparent images of Kenshin and Sanosuke floated before him, refueling his desire.

Again. Again. Again.

He will not be weak. He will not back down. He will not give in.

He is Yahiko, a man who will protect those he cares about no matter the consequences!

His breath ran ragged and sweat trickled in his eyes. He eagerly wiped the sweat off. His breath, on the other hand, was something he couldn't be merely wiped away. It meant resting. It meant sopping, a luxury he couldn't afford. He continued, ignoring the growing pain in his chest.

Again. Aga—

Yahiko's legs wobbled and he collided with the hard unshakeable ground. Dirt crawled inside his mouth as he wheezed. He spat it back out yet some still clung to the stop of his mouth.

This was stupid; useless. How could he? How could his body betray him like this?

Kaoru and Megumi hurriedly rushed outside after hearing the commotion. Kaoru gaped. "Yahiko! What were you thinking? You just can't keep pushing yourself like that without resting!"

Yahiko used one arm to push his body up, allowing him to sit. "Just shut up!" Kenshin and Sanosuke were so far ahead in strength. In power! But not determination. That belonged solely to him. And he would use it to surpass them!

Kaoru slapped him. Not harshly, but for sanity's sake. "You will get nowhere by running ragged. Do us all a favor and think for once. This is your health—"

"My health doesn't matter!" His face stung. He pushed her away and eased himself up. "Get out of my way!"

Megumi grabbed the urchin by the folds of his yakuta. "Listen up you lil' ungrateful punk, because I'll only say this once." Her eyes narrowed into his. For a brief moment, he experienced what hell must be like. "Every fighter lays their life on the line whether or not they know it. By now you should have enough sense to realize this or maybe you haven't become the man I thought you are—"

"I am a man!"

"I'm not finished!" She barked. "Being of the medical profession, I've seen too many they haven't taken proper care; too many lives wasted because of stupidity. If you want to fight another day, if you want to fight by their sides, you damn well better take care of yourself! Is this clear?"

Yahiko gulped. "Yes ma'am."

The night sky was dotted by little specks of silver light. Yahiko gazed outside. His bones ached and muscles sore. Like sparks of fire snaking around him. He took a deep breath, trying to shake it off. He swallowed, his saliva sliding down like a hard clunk. His fingers danced wearily, wanting to grip his sword once more.

Kaoru's and Megumi's words echoed amongst the silent night. He sighed and fought the urge.

His sword flashed at him from the corner of his eye, begging to be wielded; strapped in his hands. To be thrust into the dead of night, strengthening him into the man he needed to be. For Kenshin. For the scummy dirtbags. For himself.

Clouds drifted pass the sky, blotting the silver specked stars. Yet the moon broke though, shining down at his silhouette against the papered wall. His eyes floated to the ceiling, watch a moth bathe in the moonlight. Its wings fluttered. His eyes blinked in slow unison until they closed altogether.

He would get stronger in the morning.