I don't know if we've moved on to the next challenge or not, but I figured what the hey-hey. I haven't written anything in a while. My pregnancy all but stole my muse away. I saw the first couple stories for the 60second get posted, went into the hospital and only a few days ago did I start up old faithful here and start to read again. Everyone seemed to have a nut to write including Calger-chan...Who apparently caught the writing bug twice. I can't let that girl write all the stories...so...here I am. By the way, Zackary Quinn McSorley was born a healthy 9 pounds 7 ounces on the tenth of March (I was absolutely huge) and I somehow find myself back in the swing of things. Hope this catches someone's fancy. RK is not mine...Kenshin is not mine...Good thing, cause my husband would be even more jealous of the "red--headed bastard".

The Mind of the Fallen
A 60 second vignette
By Ranma1517730129

The sky was high and so very clear, but in the heart of Shinomori Aoshi icy storms brewed. "The strongest...They deserve to be the strongest..." It had become a mantra in the very depths of his soul. How could he alone live and not bring the flower of the word strongest to his fallen comrades? Aoshi would fail his men no longer. It mattered little who would stand in his way. He had come to Kyoto to search for Himura Kenshin. Once the fabled Hitokiri Battosai, now simply a wanderer saving the world one person at a time. Nonsense! Nothing mattered but the fight! Nothing could be more important than being the strongest! Hannya, Beshimi, Hyotoko, Shikijou, they were proud warriors of the Oniwabanshu. Men left behind and then lost in the peace of a new era, antiquated in the Meji. How is a man made a relic? When a man becomes obsolete where can he find his solace? His men had found solace in him, their Okashira. Leader. What is a leader? A man. What is a man? Who is Shinomori Aoshi the man?

The wind danced and played around him like a small child, but he could not take any delight in it. A frozen heart, unreachable in every way. Aoshi had been the Okashira so long that he could find very little trace of what or who Aoshi the man was; and now, with his men's spirits crying out for strength, Shinomori Aoshi the okashira cared very little who Aoshi the man was at all. Their okashira could not join them until his opponent was dead, that was certain. Failure was not an option. Himura Kenshin, no, the Battosai, was going to fall before his twin kodachi. His men would be the strongest. Then perhaps he too could slip into the void. Leading his men into the great abyss appealed to him greatly. He was no longer the Okashira of the Oniwaban in this life. He had given that up in his quest for the title his men deserved. The few remaining members of the Oniwaban were weak and unstable, Okina was all the leadership they had, and he would die this day. Today would mark the end of the onmitsu who once proudly defended Edo castle. Today he would kill Okina. It would bring him no pleasure, but it would bring him no sorrow either. Shinomori Aoshi was beyond these things. Today Okina would fall before him for protecting the Battosai; it was a simple truth. Nothing would stand in the way of his retribution.

He stared down into Kyoto, the city of flowers, and tried to remember what it was like here when he was younger. He soon tired of the exercise. He didn't care. Soon Aoshi would make his way to the cabin and one less obstacle would be in his way. One less stepping stone on the way to his ultimate goal. Somewhere deep inside he hoped that the remaining Oniwaban would simply let him have Okina's life and not come for him. He knew this was unrealistic. The Battosai had their protection; they would not simply hand him over. It wasn't their way. In this selfsame place in Aoshi's mind, he could see the faces of the people he left behind in Kyoto. Okina, Omasu, Shiro, Okon, Kuro, and Misao all that remained of the once proud Oniwabanshu. He couldn't help but wonder what they were all like now. Especially Misao, she had been put in his charge by her father the former Okashira. She would be sixteen by now. Regret was slowly closing an icy hand about his insides. She would hate him for not protecting them. Hannya: who had been her confidant. Hyotoko and Beshimi: her playmates. Skikijou: strong and rough but putty in her small hands. In his mind's eye he could see her angry blue eyes accusing him. Could he kill little Misao? Aoshi blinked his own ice blue eyes free of the image and let all his feelings dwindle back down to nothing. The sky was high and clear, the wind played at his bangs, and the ex-okashira of the Oniwabanshu stared off into the high blue sky feeling nothing and saying nothing. There was nothing left to say.

I hope that you guys liked it. I haven't written in a while so I feel rusty, but I guess a short little piece of writing is just the way to clear the cobwebs away. Two points for people who recognize the old Japanese saying in this one...Although if you've seen the Movie, I think that your brain might accidentally trip over that Kenshin killing Gentatsu scene like five or six times before you can remember it clearly. LOL. I honestly don't know what sparked me to write about Aoshi here. I guess I just wanted to know what he was thinking before he fought Okina and it turned into a ficlet. Only 712 words, I didn't have all that much to say I guess. : )