It all started on a midnight dreary...
While the author sat weak and weary....
Okay that's a lie but who cares. A pre 02 fic. Focuses on Iori mostly and some Miyako with a small dash of Daisuke and Hikari added in.

Song - Sobakasu from Rurouni Kenshin 1st season beginning song. Translation:

I touched those hated freckles lightly and sighed,
My "heavy class" love has dissolved clearly
Just like a sugarcube.
The thorn stuck in my thin breast went in further
And hurt much more than before.
Astrology didn't predict that at all.

A AU fanfic involving Iori quite a bit. He's slightly different from the TV shows Iori. Remember this is a an AU fanfic (alternate universe) so some things are different! Please note that! I do not want to be chewed out by people for having the characters and events slight OOC.

Inoue Momoe - oldest sister of Miyako. Age 17 in 02.
Inoue Chizuru - older sister of Miyako. Age 14 in 02.
Inoue Mantarou - oldest brother of Miyako. Age 20 in 02.

Honor and duty. Those twin words were the first thing Iori could remember from his father.

Law and order. The second set of words that Iori could remember from his father.

The clean pressed police uniform and officer badge, the oiled kendo shinai and dojo, his mother and grandfather. Memories of a past and a constant of the present. Iori sat down in front of the family shrine and burnt a single stick of incense in honor of his father. The man, who fell in the name of duty, honor, law and order. A man that Iori began to realize that he never quite knows nor understand. The incense's sweet aroma began to rise into the air and Iori stared at the red-hot ember that made a downward descent of the incense stick. It devoured the incense and left ashes in its wake.

"Iori..." Iori's grandfather at the low table said in a soft voice. He watched his grandson kneeling in front of the shrine in silence. How small Iori looked in front of the expansive hard oak shrine that housed but a picture of his son and wife. Iori sat neither listening to his grandfather or his own confused heart.

'Law must be kept, order must be kept, duty must be kept and honor must be kept at all cost... A lack of any of these four things will cause chaos,' Iori recited to himself over and over again like a mantra. He wasn't quite sure where he heard them but it made sense. If the law is broken, order is broken thus allowing chaos. To rectify the chaos it is in the duty of all to bring the law on the perpetrator without remorse and without clemency. It is honorable to pursue this duty and bring law and order back to chaos. In Iori's mind was an uncluttered affair, there was only black and white, no gray in between. Good and evil, law and chaos, order and anarchy. The choices were so simple that it often galled him or made him lose sight of everything. The key to it all was control. Control over emotion and control over what Iori could influence.

"Iori," the old grandfather said in a voice that was much louder. Iori's thoughts were broken and he turned his head around to look at his grandfather. His green eyes rested on the wrinkled old man and waited for what he had to say.

"Yes grandfather?" Iori asked in a respectful voice. Control over himself was all that he had to be proud of. No tears of the heartache he felt and courtesy to all, regardless if they deserved it not. Iori could feel his grandfather probe him with inquisitive eyes, trying to break the shield erected and coax the uncontrolled emotional side of him but he would never let that happen.

"Why don't you play outside Iori? Maybe with some friends perhaps?" Iori's grandfather asked.

Iori managed to prevent himself from flinching at the word friends. What friends? Who would make friends with the sombre looking boy whose green eyes kept on telling people. You can't sway me from the path I have chosen? He had no friends of his age. He didn't have anyone in his entire class that would talk to him, let alone acknowledge his existence. Iori turned away from his grandfather and stared at the shrine in front of him. He stared hard at the picture of his father in full police uniform smiling so happily. It was a picture full of life and expectation for the future. It was hateful picture to Iori because the man it showed was dead, buried and gone. Iori expression did not change but his heart was like a hole that could not be filled.

'If you saw me today, would you be proud father?' Iori asked to the picture. He looked down and looked at the dying embers of the incense stick, which was almost completely gone. The last few curls of smoke disappeared into the air.

"Iori?"

"... You are right grandfather. I should go outside and play," Iori answered. He turned around and got up from his sitting position. Iori's grandfather helplessly looked at his grandson as he got up and left the apartment.

*****

Iori prided himself to be a level headed and intelligent boy, especially compared to others his age, but right now he felt like a complete idiot. Here he sat on a bench close by a playground watching other play and laugh. Fellow children his age who were 'supposed' to be his 'equals'. Somehow that just didn't make sense to him, these laughing children who had no idea or thoughts outside of play, going to school and other such mundane things.

Iori recognized a few of the playing children to be his fellow classmates but they didn't bother coming to him. Instead they took a quick peek and then huddled into their little circle. They seemed baffled as to why he was there at the playground and were quite possibly mocking him. Then again what did it matter? Who needed friends? He was above them and their rabble. His 'equals' indeed.

Iori humphed and crossed his arms. There was a little part in him though that really wished that he could approach those children and play with him but the stubbornness of his innate pride refused to acknowledge it. He was 'above' them and he quite frankly could probably kick their asses any time of the day. They were all pitiful fighters against him and they all knew it. They had no knowledge of the fighting arts whereas Iori was quickly becoming a master of his own. In a few years not even his grandfather would not be able to defeat him in kendo.

Iori allowed a small smile with such pleasing thoughts and looked up into the sky for a brief moment. The blue sky had turned a pale rose tinted spectacle. It was going to be dark soon but what did it matter if he went home now? His mother would be out working late and his grandfather probably went to the dojo to teach for the six thirty kendo class. Then again, he shouldn't cause so much unnecessary grief or worry for his mother and grandfather, after all they were all that he had left in the terms of family. Iori sighed and started to get up from the bench but all of a sudden he was hit on the head with a rock. He felt a sharp pain for a second and then it resided for moment before surging forth as a dull throbbing pain. Iori blinked in surprise and looked around to see who had thrown the rock. It did not take long before Iori's rested his eyes on three fellow classmates of his that were snickering. Their eyes were gleaming with malevolent joy.

"Got him right on the head!" Kanma, the tallest boy smirked. He stood a good seven inches over Iori but that did not faze Iori or inspire any fear. Iori knew all to well that Kanma was a complete coward without his cohorts with him. Speaking of which the two with Kanma were Gunro and Wakabe, two somewhat fat boys who happened use their weight to their advantage and literally sit on poor saps that Kanma happened to dislike at the moment. It seemed that the sadistic Kanma seemed to have taken a disliking to Iori but that hardly mattered. The feeling was mutual and right now Iori had no desire to deal with the situation. He was going home and that was that. He would get back at Kanma on another day.

Shrugging, Iori simply turned his back on Kanma and walked away without looking over his shoulder. They were beneath his notice and if they decided to pursue the matter Iori would simply end it. Iori put his hand on the spot where the rock hit and came to see that he was bleeding slightly. Stopping for a moment Iori reached into his pocket to take out a handkerchief to staunch the wound.

"Well look at the Gunro! Shorty's running back to his mother. Wonder what he's going to do? Cry to his dead daddy to arrest us?" Kanma said out loud. Enough for everyone in the playground to hear. Iori ignored it; revenge came to those who wait. Like wine, revenge becomes all the more sweeter from the wait. Iori wasn't sure where he heard that analogy when it came to revenge before but it made sense. There would be a day when Kanma would regret the day of making fun of him and Iori would give him no tender mercies. Kanma was unjust and therefore must be punished. The punishment would fit the crime, Iori would make sure of it.

"Hey leave him alone!" A voice shouted at the trio of bullies. It was a girl's voice and Iori turned around to see who was defending him. He soon came upon the sight of a tall geeky looking girl with rather round glasses. She had purple hair, which boggled Iori's mind, and was glaring at the three boys. She towered over them and was looking down as if they were mere insects to her. Kanma looked rather annoyed and looked the tall girl over him.

"Whose asking you freak?" Kanma said in a shaky but arrogant voice. The purple-headed girl could only smile ever so slightly in an evil way.

"The freak that can kick your ass around and dump you into a garbage can, shorty," she answered back. Kanma could only back off a bit and glare at her.

"Well me and my boys can lay the smack down on you if you try anything," Kanma spat out. He looked around to see if there was anyone watching him and his friends. In the corner of his eye he could see in the distance a tall glass-wearing boy with dyed blonde hair walk towards them.

"Miyako! What the hell are you doing over there?" The boy shouted at his purple-haired younger sister. He arrived by her side and growled at her.

"Meet my older brother Mantarou... And if he's not enough, I'll get my two older sisters to help me stuff you down a trashcan... So shall we do the smack down?" Miyako asked. Mantarou frowned and then looked at his youngest sister.

"Hey... If I help you in any way, you're going to have to give me your desserts for the next two days," Mantarou demanded smirking.

"What?! How about one day and I'll clean the dishes after dinner?" Miyako wheedled; she ignored Kanma and his boys completely. That upset Kanma as the center of attention was no longer on him but on the two wrangling siblings. Iori just felt very confused and wondered why the strange girl would bother coming to his assistance. No one in the world had ever bothered helping him in any way. It must be a freak coincidence that the girl bothered to stand up for him and was not going to happen any time in the near future again.

"What's going on here?" Another girl with glasses approached with another girl in glasses.

"Chizuru! Momoe! Mantarou is being a meany! He won't help me unless I give him my dessert!" Miyako whined a bit. The darker haired and taller girl frowned and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose a bit more.

"What is this all about?" Momoe asked wearily eyeing the Miyako and the group of boys. Iori started to walk away hoping that the strange purple haired girl would not notice him sneaking out.

"This hasn't got anything to do with you," Kanma barked at them, he tried to make a firm image but Iori knew it was just an illusion ready to crumble.

"Oh and why not?" Miyako asked, she then noticed the little boy she was trying to help walking away from the scene.

"Hey where do you think you're going? I'm trying to help you!" Miyako shouted after Iori. She approached Iori, ignoring Kanma who was venomously glaring at her.

Iori was apparently unsuccessful in his attempt to leave without notice. Odd, usually people ignored him but this girl noticed. He sighed and stayed standing where he was with the handkerchief still on his forehead to stop the bleeding. Chizuru noticed Iori and his bleeding wound that was reddening his handkerchief as Miyako arrived at his side.

"Oh I see now," Chizuru said, her eyes narrowed on the three bullies. Mantarou could only sigh and give up against trying to get his sister into giving up her dessert.

"I believe you should leave," Mantarou said in a low voice. Kanma buckled with his two lackeys, Gunro and Wakabe.

"Fine but don't think this is over," Kanma proclaimed and arrogantly strolled away with his two lackeys. He deliberately passed Miyako and Iori, then stopped for brief moment to give them a cold stare. Gunro and Wakabe also stopped, nervous and unsure what they're leader was going to do. Iori could only levelly look back at Kanma with his green eyes and stare him down. Miyako had to admit watching the short boy stare placidly back at the other taller boy was rather unnerving. The green eyes seemed so empty and void of emotion, Kanma broke off his glaring and then went at Miyako.

"I'm not forgetting about you any time soon either," Kanma said in a low voice. He then spat in Miyako's face, hitting her square in the nose and ran off as quickly as possible. Miyako's siblings saw what happened and ran after Kanma and his two friends.

"Ah!" Miyako cried out and used the sleeve of her shirt to wipe off the spittle on her face.

"Come back here you little punks!" Momoe shouted after the three that split up at an intersection across the street from the playground. The three stopped at the outer edges of the playground since they couldn't leave Miyako behind.

Miyako finally stopped rubbing the spit off her face and grimaced with disgust. Iori could only look at her wondering why she even bothered helping him. No one had ever helped him for any reason except that they were expected to or that they were 'ordered' to.

"Are you all right, Miss?" Iori asked politely. His family had taught to him to be polite to everyone. She was older than him by a few years and thus he accorded her respect she deserved. Yet there was something about this girl that made him feel uncomfortable and at the same time warm.

"Yeah, I'm fine but man that was disgusting. Now are you all right? You're not hurt are you?" Miyako immediately asked. She tried to get a closer look at Iori's wound. Iori pulled back a bit to avoid her hands. His wound had dried up and left an ugly scab.

"I am fine, Miss. I just need to go home, thank you for your concern," Iori said politely. There all the niceties were done with and he could now leave. Miyako had other ideas though in her brain.

"Stop calling me 'Miss'. My name's Inoue Miyako and I'm not letting you walk home by yourself. What if those bullies come after you again?" Miyako asked. She was concerned and Iori stopped for a moment trying to find a reason not to have her walk home together.

"Miyako! You owe me your desserts for two days and you have to do the dishes!" Mantarou said as he arrived by Iori's vicinity. Momoe and Chizuru smiled and nodded while Miyako looked shocked.

"What?! We didn't have that deal you jerk!" Miyako screeched. She liked her desserts and she was damned if she'd let them fall into the greedy hands of her older siblings.

"Well, we decided to do something for you, so now you have to pay up squirt," Momoe stated simply.

"It's only fair," Chizuru added while Miyako just pouted.

"Whatever! Anyways we're walking home together with this little guy here," Miyako said maternally. She patted Iori on the head but he simply just frowned.

"I do not require any sort of assistance in returning home to my apartment," Iori politely stated. Miyako however couldn't pick up on the subtle hint; she was simply a whirlwind of activity now and was wildly doing physical actions to demonstrate her point.

"Well as I said I'm worried those guys might beat you up! If they get anywhere close to you I'll pound that jerk's face in for spitting in my face," Miyako stated, she punched into the air doing an exaggerated karate chop. Iori could only sigh in suffering and then walked off. He knew it was rude and such but still, something told him the girl was going to be... disruptive to his status quo if he stood around any longer.

"Right! We're off!" Miyako announced and began walking after Iori. The other three older siblings of Miyako simply rolled their eyes and followed as well. The whole point of Iori walking off was to give another hint that he did not want company but now it seemed that subtle hints just didn't work on this girl when she was worked up. She was now in fact asking a multitude of questions he found annoying but had to socially answer them for her.

"So what's your name?" Miyako asked.

"My name is Hida Iori, Miyako-sempai," Iori answered. He resisted the urge to sigh and stopped at a red light.

"Just call me Miyako, Iori-kun," Miyako stated with a smile. The little boy, Iori, was so unusually polite and quiet. No wonder those bullies were picking on him like that. The three Inoue siblings behind the two younger children were chatting, ignoring the two. Miyako felt a bit awkward since it was becoming obvious that Iori wasn't going to start a conversation with her. Likewise Iori felt awkward around Miyako.

"So what school do you go to?" Miyako asked enthusiastically. She was curious about this boy, she could have sworn that she had seen him before. He was always passing her family store at the ground level of the apartment building she lived in but had never gone in when she was tending the store.

"I go to Odaiba elementary," Iori answered but inwardly he really wished she would stop. Iori wasn't a very social able person; he had to admit that he was actual almost sort of like recluse when it came to dealing with people. He didn't bother them and they didn't him, it was good arrangement but apparently there were people like Miyako out there in the world.

"Really? That's the school I go to as well! I'm in grade 5!" Miyako said. She talked and talked and talked, to the point that Iori wondered how she could keep breathing with the relatively short breaks of conversation she had. She was a random element that he couldn't eliminate or control, that irked him. Yet it made infinitely interesting at the same time.

"So I say to Daisuke, 'no way', and then..." Miyako blathered until finally, and none to early, arrived at the apartment building he lived in. Iori felt awkward around this girl and hastened to take leave of her presence. Yet he found her presence very comforting. It was an oxymoron of feelings. Then again how could someone talk so much in less then ten minutes? It boggled his mind and left him begging for blessed silence.

"Miyako will you just shut up," Momoe said irritably. Chizuru and Mantarou could only nod in agreement while Miyako glared.

"You're contributing to the world's noise pollution level sis," Chizuru added. That made Miyako blow her top off.

"How can you say that?! It's not as if Iori-kun is complaining about it!" Miyako said explosively. Iori felt uncomfortable and decided now was a good time to leave Miyako and her siblings presence.

"This is my apartment building, Miyako-sem... I mean Miyako-san," Iori finally spoke. Miyako blinked and then looked around while her to see where she was.

"Oh... We're home, I didn't notice," Miyako commented lightly. Iori stiffened and went through his memory on Miyako's one-sided conversation that happened during the walk to his apartment. He was quite sure that she mentioned something about living in the same apartment complex as him or something. He wasn't paying attention to her and tuned her out wishing that his embarrassment that he felt around her would go away.

"You ... live here?" Iori asked. He was still polite but Miyako really upset him. She was a random element in an orderly little world. She was talkative and loud, those were just annoyances. It was her tendency to be completely unpredictable that seemed to be particularly grating to Iori though. One moment she was talking about school, then ice cream, then how there weren't enough cute boys in the world and the finally about what her friend Daisuke did while playing football inside one of the classroom. Could someone please tell him why there were some idiots out there in the world who played football inside one of the classroom? Last time Iori checked football was an outdoor game that required more than one player. In spite of the randomness of her personality Iori found himself enjoying her presence though he said absolutely nothing.

"Yeah! I live on the eighth floor," Miyako said ignoring her brother and sisters.

"The eighth floor?" Iori deadpanned. Miyako blinked and looked at Iori and nodded.

".... The eighth floor..." Iori said to no one in particular and let that piece of information slide down into his brain. Miyako lived on the same floor as he did, that caused him to mentally shudder. He did not want to be anywhere near this confusing and flighty girl. She was making him feel uncomfortable on so many levels it wasn't funny.

"Hey squirt! Let's move shall we?" Mantarou said exasperated. Miyako gave her brother a dirty look before walking into the apartment to the elevators. Iori found himself reluctantly following the group and waited for the elevator to come down. He was so close to his apartment that he could practically taste the microwave food sitting in his refrigerator's freezer. He knew his mother and grandfather wasn't home at this time. After all, rent and food had to be bought for the family now since his father was dead. Work on all the weekdays and exhaustion and relaxation on weekends.

"So Iori-kun what stuff do you like doing?" Miyako asked. She smiled at Iori and that caused him to blink. No one ever bothered talking to him and such, yet this girl insisted on talking to him. What part of subtle hint did she not get? All he did when she was busy talking was nod his head and make a non-committal sound every now and then to keep her satisfied and be marginally polite. He wanted to say something but ended freezing up and wishing that he could hide in his apartment. The elevator came down and opened to let passengers in. Chizuru pressed the button for the eighth floor for all of them.

"... I do kendo," Iori answered tersely. He wished the elevator would go up faster so he could leave Miyako's presence. Why did she keep smiling at him? No one ever smiled at him like the way she was, except possibly his mother but that was rare. It made him uncomfortable and even more awkward around her.

"Wow, so you're like a mini-Kenshin," Miyako said. Iori however did not know what Miyako was talking about. He had never watched all too many 'animes' and was therefore unfamiliar with the comparison Miyako was making.

"A mini-who?" Iori asked baffled. The elevator stopped and let the passengers off on the eighth floor. They began walking down the hallway to their respective apartments.

"Kenshin! You never seen the show have you? That's terrible, you should see it sometimes! Its on channel 29 at 7:30," Miyako answered. Iori finally stopped by his apartment door and got out his key.

"Well this is where I live. Thank you for accompanying me," Iori said politely. He bowed to Inoue siblings and made himself straight again. Mantarou, Chizuru and Momoe nodded back while Miyako looked at Iori's apartment door.

"Hey! What do you know? We're neighbours and all this time I've never known," Miyako stated idly. Iori froze and blinked. An ache erupted in his chest, crept up his spine and scared the willies out of him.

"You know it's polite to bow back to someone if they're being polite?" Momoe asked sarcastically to her thoughtless sister. Miyako ignored it and looked at Iori again with a smile. Iori felt completely confused as to why Miyako was smiling at him again. What was it? Was his fly open? Was she mocking him? God, this girl was completely frustrating. Her emotions were worn on her sleeve and yet he couldn't divine the reason why she was smiling at him.

"Well I'll see you latter Iori-kun," Miyako said. She began walking with her older brother and sisters to her apartment. They stopped right next door and opened the door. Iori could smell dinner wafting in from the other room. A warm Japanese family dinner meal, when was the last time he had one of those with his family? They entered their apartment and he could hear their mother greeting her children home.

"Come on, dinners going to get cold if you come in," Mrs. Inoue told her children. Iori could hear Miyako's mother's voice from where he was standing and he watched them all enter into their apartment. Iori stood in the hallway a bit longer and listened to their chatter together until their door finally closed. It was then Iori fumbled with his keys to open his door. He entered a dark and cold apartment, devoid of people and empty. Light filtered in from an open window and gave him a good view of Tokyo city. The lights of the city cast themselves onto the sky and drowned out the stars. He stood in the hallway of his apartment and waited with there with his shoes on and tried to imagine his mother or grandfather greeting him for him dinner to be eaten together. It was too hard for him to imagine and he gave up. Removing his shoes he came in and without bothering to turn on the lights, headed straight to the kitchen to the refrigerator for dinner. Iori opened the freezer and grabbed a random microwavable to pop into the microwave for dinner. He quickly taped in the required time and waited for it too cook. Except for the buzzing of the microwave as it cooked dinner, the apartment was completely silent and if Iori could strain his ears enough, he could barely make out the sounds of eating next door. Ignoring that he went to the sink and washed his wound a bit and fumbled around for a band aid to put over it. He then placed his blood stained handkerchief in the laundry basket and returned the kitchen just in time.

Ping!

The microwave was done cooking and Iori opened the door to take out an unrecognizable mass of food. Or at least he dared to think it was food. The smell didn't really assure him that it was safe to eat at all but Iori nonetheless bravely grabbed a pair of chopsticks and picked up a piece of 'chicken' that oddly looked like something that was minced and spliced together meats of various animals. Probably mice, rats or some small animals that he didn't know of. Iori finally found himself craving for rice and miso soup but sighed resignedly, knowing his mother would be far too tired to cook dinner when she came home from work and his grandfather had no idea or ability at cooking.

Thus Iori placed the food on his kitchen table and then went back to the refrigerator to get something to drink. He opened the door and let the artificial light to wash over him and illuminate the kitchen. He tried to look for some milk or juice but ended up finding his grandfather's prune juice. Cans and packs of prune juice and nothing else. Iori grimaced and gagged at remembering the taste of prune juice. He didn't know how his grandfather could possible like the vile drink but Iori always accepted the prune juice from his grandfather though he despised it. Iori wrinkled his brow and grabbed the milk instead and then checked the expiration date to only discover the milk was three days old. His mother must have bought the milk four days ago at grocery market's special marked down produce section, in an effort to save money perhaps. Iori took a tentative sip from the carton and found the milk had fermented slightly. Making a face Iori went to the sink and dumped the milk down the drain.

'So much for milk,' Iori thought to himself and got himself a drink of water instead. He sat down at his kitchen table with the microwave dinner and stared at it. The darkness and silence of the apartment was amazing, the only sound that Iori could hear was the sounds out of his open apartment window. From there he could hear wind softly blowing in and the sounds of Miyako's family wafting in. He could hear them talking, arguing and laughing about things that Iori could care less about but it seemed so natural to them. Dinner with his family was always silent and always orderly. Iori's mother made dinner, Iori cleaned the dishes and grandfather dried them and put them in their place. However there was talking over dinner from what he could hear from Miyako's apartment, they talked about everything from dinner to work to their gripes about life.

'And if you wrong me, shall I not avenge? If I am like you in the rest, I will resemble you in that. The villainy you teach me I will execute,' Iori reminded himself of some long ago words he learned. Iori heard it once from someone who he saw get beaten up by Kanma and his crew, he remember the unfortunate victim having an intense liking for Shakespeare. Iori couldn't remember who got beaten up exactly but he knew that that someone left the school for another far away. Iori was quite sure that Kanma and his gang had decided to make Iori their next victim because Iori had interfered with the beating. Then came Miyako and her strange ways. What right did the Inoue have to complain about life? They were not always persecuted for no reason or purposely singled out for abuse. Iori found that he was violently tearing into his dinner but not eating it and could found no reason for his brutal dinner dissection, other than the fact that he was fantasizing how he was going to get back at Kanma. Miyako intervention with Kanma was a mistake and it tore at him like a festering wound. Iori stabbed his chopsticks into the 'chicken' violently and ripped them apart. Miyako had no right to simply burst into that and suddenly throw the natural balance out of whack. Why didn't she act like any other apathetic individual in the world and let Kanma do what he wanted with Iori? If she let Kanma continue with his injustice, then Iori would only have more reason and more justification in getting back at him. And Iori would have his 'justice' on Kanma but he needed to be patient and wait for a moment where Kanma was by himself, then Iori would implement punishment for Kanma's transgression.

Iori gave up on the thoughts of dinner and threw down his chopsticks in disgust. He wondered why he was so upset with Miyako who just happened to help him. She probably prevented Iori from suffering from serious injury. Yet he was completely ungrateful for it. He got up from his seat and closed the open window in the living room. He couldn't bear to listen to the Inoue family talking over dinner any more. He could hear them and their happy little family dinner all to well in the silence of his apartment. Iori still didn't bother putting on any light in his apartment and stared out the window, now closed. The lights of the city allowed to Iori to see and vague shapes of people walking down below in the darkness could be seen.

Iori lost track of time and simply sat at the window and looked out. There out in the city were millions of oblivious people who walked around their lives fulfilling nothing. It was depressing to think about it, was Iori going to end up like all those other people? Going through life accomplishing nothing that would impact anyone's life? To die and be forgotten without doing anything great or worthy to be praised or remembered for? No, Iori was determined not to become like so many of the masses out there. He would do something great; he would be something great and respected. He would learn and control his own fate. Then finally maybe he could feel like something his father would be proud of.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Iori got off from his seat by the window and went back into his kitchen. He saw the cold remains of his dinner and threw it out. He wasn't hungry anyways; the clock on the microwave told him that it was now 7:27 p.m. His mother and father would not be home until latter, possibly not until 9:30 p.m. perhaps he should have went with his grandfather to tonight's classes rather than stay home. It was too late to complain and now Iori found himself bored. Then a knock came on Iori's door. Blinking Iori went to the door and opened it. Bright light from the hallway, exposed to the open air, blinded him for a moment because he didn't bother turning on any lights inside his apartment. He could however see that the person who had knocked on his door was tall and had purple hair. Iori began to debate if the hair had been dyed or if it was actually natural.

"Hey Iori-kun! How are you feeling?" Miyako said enthusiastically. Iori blinked and looked at Miyako.

"What are you doing here Miyako-sempai?" Iori asked baffled.

"Didn't I tell you that I would see you latter?" Miyako asked rhetorically.

"Oh yeah and call me Miyako."

"Yes, but I thought you meant 'latter' as in tomorrow," Iori answered. He turned on his apartment's hallway lights while he answered.

"... I know this sounds really strange... But can I watch Rurouni Kenshin on your TV?" Miyako asked. She bowed her head and held her hands together in a sort prayer like way.

"What?..." Iori asked confused.

"My brother and sisters are watching that stupid drama, even though it's my time to watch TV. It's such a bummer having older brother's and sisters," Miyako gripped. Iori was not impressed and thought of a reason not to let Miyako inside.

"Well there's no one here but me..." Iori said to Miyako.

"Oh no! It must be starting right now! Oh Kenshin!" Miyako said tragically. Then she set her face into determination and looked at Iori. That made him feel very uncomfortable.

"Please, please, please, please let me just watch on your TV! I can't record it because my brother is recording something on the VCR! It'll only be for 30 minutes! Trust me you'll like the show!" Miyako said quickly. Iori didn't like it when people begged like that. He was such a pushover when someone asked him for help or something desperately. It wasn't as if his mother or grandfather would be back any time soon. It was just a stupid anime show, nothing special. Besides maybe he could finally divine why he felt so strange around her if he remained in her presence a bit longer.

"Fine... But when it's done you have to go Miyako-san," Iori answered exasperated. Kamis above he was such a sucker for desperate pleas. Miyako face light up and she smiled.

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I'm coming Kenshin!" Miyako said happily. She hugged Iori and went into his house, turning on the lights. Iori just froze in surprise from Miyako's hug and blushed. He stood in the hallway with the door open wide still though Miyako had all ready come inside. He did not expect her to hug him and slowly closed the door embarrassed. The TV in the living room was all ready on and Iori could hear some perky, very perky, music coming from the TV.

Daikirai datta sobakasu wo chotto
Hitonadeshite tame iki wo hitotsu
Hebi ikkyuu no koi wa migoto ni
Kakuzatou to isshoni toketa
Mae yori mo motto yaseta mune ni chotto
"Chiku" tto sasaru toge ga itai
Hoshiuranai mo ate ni naranai wa

Iori looked on the screen and saw the opening of Rurouni Kenshin on his TV screen. He had to admit the opening music was rather... catchy....

"I'm pessimistic that this is going to be a good anime Miyako-san," Iori said out loud. He didn't why he said that but Miyako could only smile at Iori. It was a knowing sort of smile.

"I'll take that as a challenge..." Miyako said.

*****

"I told you it was a good anime!" Miyako said triumphantly. Iori didn't say anything and relented finally under Miyako's smug look.

"Okay... You win, Miyako-san, it was a good show..." Iori admitted finally. He also had to admit that Miyako was very entertaining person to be around.

"See?" Miyako said and got up from the sofa.

"But do Sannosuke and Megumi always fight like that?" Iori asked. He didn't quite get the relationship those two characters had.

"Of course! They're a couple! Polar opposites," Miyako explained and took a closer look around Iori's apartment. It was similar to almost every other apartment in the complex truth be told but there were some touches here and there that made all the difference. One room had actually tatami mats on the ground while every where else it was bare wood floor and there was a surprisingly lack of family photos. Miyako had tons of pictures all over the walls of her apartment.

'Kind of like us though not in a romantic sense,' Iori dryly thought. He had subjected himself to listening to Miyako's rather enthusiastic cheers when Kenshin, the main character, came on. She seemed to be quite... obsessive with the anime character, for lack of a better term. She constantly sighs and comments how she would like to have an older guy like Kenshin with her. Iori found it very amusing and rather disturbing. He failed to see how some people could become so obsessive with a person that did not exist except on paper and in dreams.

"I think you should go Miyako-san..." Iori said shaking his head.

"Aw, come on. I just live next door; it's not as if I have to go back home soon. Now be a gentlemen and show me around," Miyako began in a slight wheedling voice. Iori found himself at a loss at what to say and relented to Miyako's request to stay a bit longer.

"It's exactly like your apartment but I suppose I can show you around..." Iori said and got up from his spot off the sofa. He knew internally it was stupid because the layout of his apartment was exactly the same as Miyako's next door, so why bother touring it? Despite these thoughts Iori showed Miyako the kitchen, bathroom, living room, the bedrooms and his bedroom last.

Miyako entered an austere room with a small desk and chair in one corner near the window. The bed was in a corner away from the window and the walls were bare without ornamentation. Miyako looked around and saw in one corner Iori's kendo equipment in perfect order. She was somewhat impressed on just how plain the room was. The only thing of interest really was the small computer that was still in it's packaging.

"... What's with the computer?" Miyako asked Iori.

"Oh... That... My father bought me that computer when I was four years old..." Iori answered but felt a little upset that Miyako asked the question.

"You mean you go it almost three years ago? That thing's outdated," Miyako pointed out and then noted the look on Iori's face. He was looking at her with his green eyes evenly and she got the hint that he took offense.

"Well... You can say I keep it for sentimental reason. I suppose I should get an updated computer," Iori said in a calm voice. Miyako bent over the computer and saw that it was not even out of it's protective wrapping, let alone set up.

"You've never used this computer have you?" Miyako asked curiously. Iori blinked and sighed.

"... I have no idea how to work it neither does my mother or grandfather," Iori admitted. Miyako smiled and then raised her arms into the air.

"Bingo! I'll set this computer up for you! My way of saying thanks for letting me watch Rurouni Kenshin over here on your TV," Miyako said smiling. She began to open the box and unwrapped the computer. Iori eyes widened and numbly stood by as he watched Miyako start setting up the computer.

"What! That's completely unnecessary Miyako-san!" Iori sputtered.

"Nonsense! Don't worry your little head off! I'm a pro!" Miyako said energetically. Iori tried to voice other objections but Miyako who managed to get everything ready within ten minutes casually brushed them aside. She turned on the power of the computer and put in the software program.

"Bingo!... Now let's get this baby ready!" Miyako said. Iori approached Miyako's side and tried to figure out what she was doing. Computers had never been his forte but just by looking at Miyako he could tell that she knew what she was doing.

"You need to get something better than Windows Iori-kun..." Miyako idly commented as the computer screen bloomed to life, ready for use though she distastefully noted that it was a Windows' program.

"... I've never used a computer before Miyako-san..." Iori finally admitted. Miyako looked shocked when she turned around to face Iori.

"... You're kidding me..." Miyako said in a disbelieving voice.

"... I'm not... I never saw a reason to use one before..." Iori admitted. He looked away from Miyako waiting for her to say something.

"... That's not a problem! I'll just teach you!" Miyako stated. Iori looked at Miyako puzzled.

"... Can I ask you something, Miyako-san?" Iori asked.

"Sure ask away!" Miyako said.

"Why are you being so nice to me?" Iori asked suspiciously. The tone of his voice however made Miyako blink.

"... Why? Why not?" Miyako asked. Iori cringed and looked her straight in the eye. Miyako simply sighed and looked at the computer.

"Well?"

"You're such a lucky kid... I mean by saying that you're only child while I have three gluttonous siblings... I mean I never have time to myself or get any attention..." Miyako said. Iori felt annoyed seeing that Miyako had just changed the subject.

"Ah... Miyako-sempai..." Iori said in a firm voice.

"For the last time call me Miyako! None of the sempai stuff okay?"

"That doesn't answer my question Miyako-san..."

"I guess... I mean just by looking at you, it makes me wonder. I mean you look like the type of kid who needs a friend... I mean I don't think I've ever seen your father around..." Miyako finally admitted. Iori felt annoyed and looked away from Miyako. He did not want pity of any sort from anyone. He got enough false pity from the parents of other children from his school. It was always something on the lines of.

'Look at that boy. Isn't he the one who lost his father?'

Or something similar. Always reminded he had no father to support his family. Always pitied and shied away from because they thought a tragedy like that might happen to them. Always praised for his stoicism from the loss of his father at the same time avoiding him. They all rang false in his ear and only added fuel to his ire. Praise and hypocritical avoidance of him and his family.

"I see... I believe it is time for you to return home Miyako-san," Iori said in a polite but somewhat cooler voice of civility. Miyako picked up on Iori's tone and winced.

"I didn't imply that you don't have any sort of friends Iori. It's just that..." Iori cut off Miyako.

"I have no friends of any sort. Nor do I have the current want or need for one, Miyako-san. Will you please kindly return home," Iori said. Miyako looked apologetic and got out of Iori's room and went to the hallway to get out. Iori was ever the polite but icy host, showed her out the door of his apartment.

"I'm sorry... I didn't mean to hurt you," Miyako said as she exited the apartment. Iori looked at her squarely in the eyes with his green eyes.

"You have not hurt me at all Miyako... You simply stated a fact which you believe is true nothing more," Iori answered and closed the door on Miyako who still stood in the hallway. She could only blink and shake her head. She walked back to her apartment but lingered a bit before returning home.

'I never should have let her in, in the first place,' Iori thought to himself and walked to his room. He got ready for bed and then saw that his newly set up computer was still on. He looked around and tried to figure out how to turn it off. He pulled out the plug and left it at that. He didn't have any sort of desire to use the computer and tomorrow it was school. He quickly grabbed the wrappings and garbage of the computer wrappings and placed it all in the box. Then headed to the washroom where he washed his face and brushed his teeth then return to his room to fall asleep fitfully. He dreamt of how he would get back at Kanma and plotted.

******

Hida Kagome returned to her apartment late and exhausted. She turned on the lights of the apartment and looked around. The apartment was clean and the kitchen had been tidied up. Kagome expected no less from her son and smiled sadly. Iori had eaten alone again though, she honestly tried to get back home so she could cook some dinner but her job had kept her away. Sighing sadly she opened the refrigerator and discovered the milk had been thrown out all ready by her son. She frowned at her son's fastidiousness but didn't complain about it. She should have bought fresher, longer lasting and slightly more expensive milk rather than clearance items. The microwave clock stated it was 9:41 p.m. Her father in law would be returning home soon from his kendo classes.

Kagome took off her coat and hung it on the rack. She walked tiredly to her son's room and opened the door to see him asleep in his bed. She looked at her son with pained fondness. Iori face was calm and she lingered over it to watch her son sleep. She noticed the computer that her husband had bought, many years ago for Iori, was set up. She blinked and opened the door fully as quietly as possibly and entered. She walked to the computer and saw that it was indeed set up and smiled lightly. She went over to Iori gave him a light kiss on the forehead and then noticed something on his forehead. It was a band aid of some sort and frowned. She dismissed it as an accident of sorts and walked out of the room. She headed over to the laundry basket to see what needed cleaning and noticed the blood stained handkerchief. Kagome frowned but said nothing. It was too late to ask questions and she would ask tomorrow morning when Iori was awake.

******

Morning came to early. At least that was what Miyako thought as she grumbled and tried to smack her alarm clock to shut it up. The digital beeping was getting on her nerves and then discovered it wasn't her alarm clock that was beeping but her older sister Momoe's alarm clock. Checking to see what time it was, Miyako could read that it was only 6 a.m. It was way to early to be awake since Miyako didn't have to commute to school unlike her older siblings. Annoyed that her sleep had been interrupted Miyako tried to fall asleep again but found it near impossible since the entire household was now awake and running around to prepare for the day.

"Jeez! People there is one person here who doesn't have to get up as early as you guys do!" Miyako shouted form her room frustrated. It was impossible to sleep due to all commotion of readying people. Miyako simply got up and got changed for school, annoyed that she was once again cheated from another's hour worth of sleep because of her family. Again, mind you for every morning of every weekday and weekend. Why they all just sleep in for just one day! Miyako exited to see her mother busily preparing lunches for everyone but once again prepared Miyako's lunch wrong because her mother concentrated so hard on making Miyako's older siblings lunches first while her father prepared breakfast. Her older brother had all ready laid claimed to the TV while her older sisters Chizuru and Momoe had commandeered the washroom. Miyako was annoyed and realized that she would have to wait for at least thirty minutes to use the washroom.

"Miyako! Move it or lose it! Get the store ready for opening!" Fuemo said as he served up breakfast. Miyako cringed.

"Why can't Mantarou! He's just standing here like a doofus!" Miyako whined. Fuemo however didn't pay attention.

"Just do it! The keys are on the table, go downstairs. I'll be down with Mantarou in a few minutes," Fuemo said as he placed breakfast on a plate for his son who charged to the dinner table to eat. Miyako growled and took the key to open the store. She went out of her apartment and ran down the stairs to the store with keys in hand.

'Stupid brother! Stupid father!... Why do I have to open the store! Why can't dad feed me breakfast first before anyone else? Why doesn't mom ever get my lunch right? Why does Momoe and Chizuru always get to use the washroom before I do?' Miyako ranted mentally to herself. The door was unlocked and Miyako threw the doors opened in a rage. It didn't make her feel better but it made all the more convinced that her strange and touchy neighbour Iori had a luckier existence being an only child.

Speaking of which Iori had woken up as well... Though not because an alarm clock had woken him up but rather a far more effective means of getting up in the morning.

It all began with a man. He stalked the room like a lion after his prey. His footfall was utterly silent and his breathing quiet. Iori would never know what was going to him at all. Slowly but surely the stalker approached his unsuspecting prey. Or at least he thought it was unsuspecting prey.

"Grandfather I know you're there. Just let me a few more minutes of sleep okay?" Iori mumbled and turned on his bed away from his grandfather who fumed.

"I'll say it once and I'll say it again. Early to bed, early to rise..." Iori's grandfather began but Iori ended it.

"Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise... Okay I'm getting up," Iori said in a grumpy voice. He had been fantasizing about strangling Kanma to death in his dream. The bloated asphyxiated blue face of Kanma's was a very fond and pleasant image that Iori wish he could keep for a bit longer. But alas, his grandfather had once again woken him up early in the morning again. It was only 6 a.m. Iori checked his band aid and saw that it was still on his forehead.

"Okay, Iori let's go for a run after you eat," Chikara said as he watched his grandson get up. Leaving the room he waited for his grandson to get changed into a fresh set of clothing. Kagome was busy getting the miso soup and rice ready for breakfast. The lunch for her son was ready in one corner of the kitchen. Silence reigned in the apartment, there was no unnecessary chatter, only work. Toturi began eating his breakfast while Iori came out of his room changed.

"Thank you mother," Iori said in a polite voice and began eating breakfast. Kagome simply nodded and began piling her rice into her own bowl to eat. Breakfast was a silent and unhurried affair until Kagome broke the silence.

"Did something happen yesterday Iori?" Kagome asked. She looked at her son who had the band aid on his forehead.

"I got a rock thrown at my head," Iori answered evenly without emotions clouding his voice. No nervousness, pain or anger just a neutral tone as if he didn't really care or minded. Kagome winced and wished her son would stop being so brutally honest with her. A bit tack and some subtle explanation would have carried the message but when Iori talked to her it was always the truth. There was no sugar coating on it, just the simple stated fact.

"When was this?" Chikara asked calmly. He stopped eating and looked at his grandson.

"Yesterday, don't worry a neighbour got them to stop," Iori answered. He knew all too often that his blunt way of talking to his mother about the truth often hurt her or caused her unnecessary worry but he couldn't lie to her. It was wrong on all levels but he decided to try and curb his frankness by not mentioning that he had a plan on how he was going to extract justice from Kanma for all his crimes.

"You didn't do anything like fight back did you?" Kagome asked her son. She knew it was an unnecessary question but there were times that Iori worried her. She wished her son would express a little more emotion, especially since he just had a rock thrown at his head.

"No I didn't at the time," Iori answered honestly again.

'Though I was planning to ambush him as he walks home alone today... Does an ambush count as a fight?' Iori thought to himself. He was tempted to say the sentence out loud but he was quite sure his mother and grandfather would disapprove if they heard it. After all it wasn't as if Iori wanted to kill Kanma. If he killed Kanma, his revenge would be over and Iori wanted to at least hear Kanma scream in pain for a few more hours.

"That's good but next time try to avoid those bullies okay?" Kagome said in a hopeful voice.

"I know mother but they usually are the ones who start it," Iori answered.

'Though by the end of today I'll probably will start it for the first time,' Iori thought to himself in silence. Chikara sighed and got up from his set after eating his breakfast.

"Come on Iori, let's go for that morning run shall we?" Chikara said. Iori quickly ate the last bit of his breakfast and got up from the table.

"Thank you for breakfast," Iori said to his mother and followed his grandfather out the apartment.

Miyako was busy down in the corner store getting the electricity on for everything. She grumbled as she began to drag out a new carton of milk out from the back to put into the coolers for sale. Her father and older brother Mantarou were late... AGAIN! Miyako snarled with annoyance. This was probably the eight hundredth time they were late coming down to help her. They always had excuses but whenever she tried to explain why she didn't have all the foodstuffs ready they simply rolled their eyes. Hello? Jackasses! There are twelve very heavy cartons of milk and other drinks she has to set up and then at least twelve more boxes to open and carry out. There is no way someone by themselves can do all that in just thirty minutes.

"Argh! I'm going to kill them!" Miyako vowed and stopped for moment to get a crick out of her back. A welcomed crackle from her back could be heard as she stretched. She then saw outside of the store Iori and an old man stretching themselves out. Miyako watched them for a moment from the shop window. Iori seemed oblivious to Miyako and continued to stretch. Miyako saw the old man talk to Iori and then Iori answer back. She couldn't hear anything they were talking about and began to run off somewhere. Miyako sighed as she lost sight of Iori and went back to work. Perhaps Iori wasn't as lucky as she thought he was if he had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to run.

Iori felt the cold wind press against his body as he ran and enter his lungs. It was rather relaxing to have the wind in your face first thing in the morning. Chikara easily kept up his pace while Iori ran alongside him. There were very few people up and about. They kept on running for at least twenty minutes before Chikara decided to start walking a bit so he could talk with Iori. Iori knew what was to come when he saw his grandfather slow down to a brisk walk instead of run.

"Iori, let's stop for a moment," Chikara said and stopped by a wall to catch his breath. Age was robbing him of his strength and endurance it seemed. He didn't like it but it was inevitable that he would slow down. Iori stood by his grandfather side.

"Are you all right?" Iori asked.

"Yes but I wanted to talk to you about what had happened to you yesterday," Chikara said. Iori sighed and listened to his grandfather patiently with undivided attention.

"It was Kanma wasn't it?" Chikara stated. It wasn't a question and Iori understood that.

"Yes it was," Iori affirmed Chikara's guess. The old man sighed tiredly and looked up at the sky.

"When he threw that rock at you what did you feel?" Chikara asked.

"... I don't really know. I wasn't angry and I wasn't afraid, I just felt that he would get what was coming to him one day," Iori answered, it was the truth he stated nothing more. Said anything more such as Iori desire for 'justice', it was cause unnecessary concern. Chikara said nothing and began walking again, Iori followed after his grandfather.

"Slap Buddha in the face three times and even he will get angry... Remember that Iori, it's not healthy not feel any emotions," Chikara stated. Iori simply nodded but didn't understand.

******

The sounds of laughing and playing children could be heard. It was now 8 a.m. and Iori approached Odaiba Elementary in silence. He walked alone to the school as always and came up to the gate. Much to his ire, he saw Kanma standing around with his group of friends. There were about five of them all together, Iori wasn't stupid enough to provoke them but he was pretty pessimistic about the chances that Kanma would leave him alone.

"So I spit on her..." Kanma said in a bragging voice and then stopped noticing Iori coming into the school grounds. He grinned and quickly pointed out Iori to his other friends.

"Well, well, well. If it isn't kendo master Hida Iori? What special things are you going to do today? Kiss up to the teacher?" Kanma said in a mocking tone. Iori ignored Kanma and kept on walking unfortunately Kanma stepped in Iori's way.

"What? You have nothing to say to me? Where's your ugly girlfriend?" Kanma said viciously. He concentrated so much on Iori, he failed to take notice that Miyako had just arrived and overheard his remark.

"Excuse me! What did you just call me?! I am not ugly!" Miyako said in a loud voice and stomped her way over to Kanma. The bully jumped up surprised and looked up to see the purple-haired girl stomping her way over to him. Iori took that precise moment to slip away from the two, he didn't want to deal with them this morning. A plan had been formulating in his head for the past little while and simmered in his brain as he ironed out the details. He would have his revenge on Kanma yet. All he needed was a some information.

"Ah, shit..." Kanma muttered and then turned around to get his other friends to his side. Miyako noticed Iori walking away again.

"Hey Iori-kun! Stop right there!" Miyako shouted after Iori. Sighing Iori turned around reluctantly to face Miyako.

"Yes Miyako-sempai?" Iori asked in a harried voice. He wished to Miyako would leave him alone.

"Call me Miyako! Just Miyako," she insisted. Kanma rallied his four friends to his side. They stood together and looked at Miyako, trying to intimidate her but failing miserably. Eventually a spiky brown haired boy with goggles entered the school grounds and noticed Miyako confronting the group while Iori looked on with dispassionate eyes.

"Hey Miyako! What's going on?" The boy asked as he jogged to her side.

"Nothing Daisuke. I'm just going to pound this guy into the ground for spitting in my face yesterday," Miyako explained. Kanma wavered but his courage was buoyed by the presence of his four friends.

"Like hell you're going to beat me up," Kanma spat and looked at Daisuke who simply smiled.

"Can I help?" Daisuke asked Miyako in a innocent tone of voice.

"Why of course Daisuke," Miyako said benevolently. Kanma looked around at his friends who seemed reluctant to take on two older students. Sure they outnumbered them but they were talking about older kids who were in grade five and they were only in grade two. It wasn't a type of situation they could really expect to win. Kanma saw that he had little choice but back off for now, he would get back at Iori some other time.

"You're lucky we're not up to beat you two into a paste," Kanma said snarling. He and his four friends ran off into a different direction leaving the two older students alone.

"Damn punks... Look at them run," Daisuke muttered. Miyako walked up to Iori again.

'Please just leave me alone...' Iori quietly begged in his mind but it was futile.

"Are you all right?" Miyako asked concerned. Iori bowed slightly and answered.

"Yes Miyako-sempai, I'm all right. It was unnecessary for you to come to my assistance," Iori answered. Miyako frowned and sighed.

"You're not going to give up the 'sempai' business are you?" Miyako asked exasperated. Iori just frowned and walked away from Miyako ignoring her. It was rude but he needed to get his plans rolling, soon he would have his revenge on Kanma. So what did it matter if he was being rude?

"What's with him?" Daisuke asked watching Iori walk away.

"....One very strange and lonely boy," Miyako answered after a bit of thought.

"I'm a strange and lonely boy," Daisuke said childishly but Miyako simply glared at him.

"What?..." Daisuke asked. He then noticed Hikari walking through the gates of the school and smiled.

"Go after your one true love Daisuke," Miyako said in a light voice noting the goofy look on Daisuke face.

"Yeah... Sure... Hikari-chan!" Daisuke said and ran over to a petite brown haired girl with a digital camera hanging from her neck. Miyako sighed and turned around to see where Iori went and soon discovered he was nowhere in sight.

"... Strange boy," Miyako commented.