.5.

The ocean is beautiful. It's so different from people, we change without a moment's pause. Sometimes I can't tell who someone is from one day to the next.

Water is so easy to follow. It keeps to the same pattern, if you watch long enough. It washes up onto the beach, wets the parched sand, then slides back.

I wish people changed so little.

Maybe I could follow them with my eyes, and I wouldn't have to run around to please them. Yet people were so hard to follow, even with my heart. I shrugged absently to the sea. Ah well, what else was I to do?

"Sir?" I whipped around. Two weeks of solitude and I forget what someone's voice sounds like. I didn't want to tell this little girl I though she had been a wild animal, so instead I smiled and scratched the back of my neck.

"Sir? That's much to fancy for me. Just call me Hitomi." My voice sounded almost as high-pitched as this little girl's but I ignored that. I was used to being different. "You must be from the village, ne?" The girl nodded, eyes adorably huge.

'I wish I had a younger sister. . .'

"What's your name, young lady?" She looked at with those doe-brown eyes, and I thought she was going to pass out in shock. Her mouth turned into a little 'o' and her eyes grew till they seemed to fill her entire face. Her eyes shifted from side to side and she pointed to herself as if to ask 'me?'

I nodded. 'Of course.'

She swallowed a little them whispered something.

"What?"

". . . ai." She near-whispered. I had to really strain to hear that shy little child.

"Ai?" She bobbed her head nervously. "What a lovely name." Ai beamed.

"Do you suppose you could teak me to your village, Ai?" Again Ai's raven-black head bobbed. I was fairly certain no one had sent Ai out by herself, she was too sweet for that. Most likely she had wandered off to do something kind for her family. However, it was extremely rude to appear in a village without someone inviting you there, and if Ai was all the Gods sent me, I would make good use of their gifts.

We walked silently down the path I'd already traveled on my way to the beach, and Ai kept stealing glances at me.

"How long have you been awake, Mr. Hitomi?" She blurted, then looked frightened she had spoken to me at all. I smiled knowingly. It hadn't been so long ago that I had been this horribly shy, and I found little Ai to be heart-throbbingly cute. I think she could have been my little sister, if she wasn't so much shorter than me.

"Since about sun-up this morning." I didn't have the heard to tell her I should be asleep right now, when the sun left me. Why lost a friend before I had to? Ai's eye's were as round as saucers. She glanced at me in awe.

"All Day?" She whispered, and I could almost hear the extra capitalization. I nodded and she gasped at me.

"What does your mother say?" I shrugged. My mother was long dead, and my father just cooling in his grave. I doubt their souls gave a damn if I committed suicide right now.

"From what I heard, my mother didn't go to sleep until midday, and my father even later." Ai looked up and me and tilted her head to one side. I held my breath, waiting for her judgment.

"That's just silly!" She exclaimed without a trace of reproach. I couldn't help it, my heart warmed. Finally someone I didn't to jump through hoops to please! I can only remember one other person who was just as non-judgmental and even more blunt. I responded in kind.

"No more silly than sleeping all day~" I said back in a sing-song voice. Ai looked up at me to see if I was smiling, and when she saw I was she laughed as well.

When we approached the village, Ai took my hand and after I asked she led me to the Mayor's house.

\In your graveyard\

When we go to the door, Ai bit her lip, trembled, then skittered away. I turned back to the door. faintly I could hear crying through the heavy oak door. How had Ai known something was wrong? I glanced up and way mirra leaves over the door. Unbidden I heard my father's husky voice in my memory.

'We hung mirra when your mother died.' He was a cruel bastard, my father. Every time he mentioned her, I could almost hear him add that my birth was what killed her.

Who said I wanted to be born, anyway? Especially to a asshole like him?

I winced and shook my head. Father is dead now, and it's bad luck to think ill of the poor. Not that I care what I say or think of father. I always need luck, best not to waste it on him.

As I stared at the small, waxy leaves, I wondered who had died in this family? More importantly, will a grieving family be able to help me?

I rapped on the solid oak plank, and a formidable man dressing all in dark answered the door. He took one look at me with my travel-stained clothes, my shadow eyes, bleached blond hair and his face turned gray (it was quite pale already). He tried to slam the door on me, and looked elated at the prospect of catching my fingers between door and doorway. However I had been expecting something like this, because villagers at my last stops had also seen me as an evil presence. Everyone seems to think I bring some kind of bad luck, so I just sighed.

I probably would have left and been forced to wander outside the boundaries of my map if a woman also dressed in overbearing amounts of black kept the door open. She glared at the man at the door with a familiarity bore from years of living together with bloodshot eyes. Her entire posture appeared to be falling apart at the edges, like someone had removed the backbone of her existence.

Probably family members of the deceased, possibly husband and wife. I don't think anyone will mourn my death.

"Ma'am?" I asked her politely. Never hurts to be polite. I immediately rethought that statement when the woman in question (I suspect she was the mayor) glanced at me a did a double take. She shared a look with the man the confirmed my suspicions about their relationship and they both turned back to me.

At first she said nothing, and I thought she hadn't heard me. As the silence stretched, I realized she was looking me over, memorizing my features. Hopefully she wasn't sizing me up for a lynching, or something of the sort. A very odd thing to do, but I returned the favor.

She was a meat-and-potatoes women, if you know what I mean. I imagined if I hadn't scared her so much she might have scolded me for coming to call so early while ushering me inside, despite the death in the family. She would then berate me all the way to a pie, literally shoving it down my throat with well-meant murmurs about how I needed some meat on my bones. My heart ached.

I bit back and unpleasant wave of self-pity and met the woman's eyes. They were a pale sort of gray that looked like clothes that had been scrubbed to much, while mine looked more like dark corners. Her eyes were surrounded by laugh lines and the delicate wrinkles of age. A single tear slipped down her cheek.

"You bear many crosses, but none so heavy as the one you lost." I voiced. There I go, running through hoops again. More tears fell. How do I get myself into these messes? She nodded at me, and I didn't feel like it was such a stretch to jump through this particular hoop.

"My son." Her voice whispered. "The healers told me. . . not the bother. That he was a doomed child. but I couldn't . . . I couldn't believe them." She whispered to me on her doorstep. The tale echoed down the lane, like a story that had been told so many times everyone knows it by heart. I nodded. I had to lean forward to hear more.

"He was so small, so fragile. It . . . was my job to take care of him. But I couldn't stop it! I couldn't stop him from withering away! I couldn't stop it!" She shivered, and the man who was still holding the door glared at me like an avenging angel. He tried to comfort the woman, but she batted him away. I think I was the only one who didn't understand the point of this story, but I listened nonetheless.

"He . . . he cried to me, and I knew it was because he hurt . . . and I couldn't make it end. I couldn't end it. And . . . today he said it first word. He called me 'mommy', and smiled, just like he used to then . . . then . . . he . . ." She broke off and hid her face in the man's broad chest. While the woman was facing away he made 'shoo!' gestures. Why should I listen to him? That was one flaming hoop that I would not jump through. When I didn't leave, he started to shut the door, because we both knew her story wasn't over. The woman pushed him away again. She looked me in the eye.

"But you lived. When my Judas . . . you lived! Were you born at dawn, also?" I stayed silent. The woman fumed.

Why was I alive anyway? Shouldn't I be dead? So many people who were connected to me were dead. Was it my fault?

I wasn't the only one to think so.

"Leave my village! You . . . you monster! Living on borrowed time you may be, but you are DEAD TO US!" She fumbled for the door handle. Her husband slammed the oak a sliver away from my nose.

As I jumped back I heard all the other doors down the street slam along with this door. She really was the mayor, Ai had led me to the right house. I was still a little worried about that woman and what she had said. She must have thought I was her dead son. Living on borrowed time? The rung true in ways I'd rather avoid.

"Too bad I'm not, eh?" I murmured, disappointed. These people were not going to help me at all. And I had been hungry, too.

Absent-mindedly I rubbed my palms as I walked down the darkened lane. As I may have stated before, I have basically no night vision, I couldn't see the villagers glaring at me. However it was impossible to ignore them trying to pound me into the ground with their stares. Occasionally a door would slam when more people heard the news. Ai stared at me from the shadows.

In the distance I saw a lone door open, and I ran towards it unthinkingly. Before I could reach it, an innkeeper's profile darkened the doorway. I looked up at him pleadingly, panting from over-exerting myself.

"P-please." I panted out. The man paused for an entirety, then nodded.

"What do you want, boy?" He ask me softly. He sounded sorry.

"Which was is Hirosama." I asked, quietly hoping I could get an answer despite the pain I had brought. The man pointed towards the raising moon. He held up his hand for me to wait, then shuffled inside. When he came back ou he was carrying a cloak and a backpack full of food. He looked about at all the invisible glaring eyes and broke.

"I'm sorry you got mixed up in this mess. It's just . . ."

I waited.

"It's just you look like the Mayor's son. Just like him."

/He will raise a dead people/

end .5.

A/n- (wipes brow) Wow, that took far to long to get up. And I still have almost an entire chapter written and waiting to be posted. I'm such a bum. Hopefully if I can regain some of the fervor I had before about this story. I'm really starting to see some things I wouldn't have noticed before, and while my works are not top-notch, I am learning. ^^ I'm so proud.

C/n- There's a lot I could say about this. And most of it would get bleeped out.

Koori- (narrows eyes) This is still about the 'Prince' joke, isn't it? I did warn you. . . (trails off at look in Hof's eyes) Ah. . . I'll be leaving now! (runs away)

Hof- (smirks and rubs hands together in disturbing fashion) Now I can get revenge for Koori making me crush on Orlando Bloom. (glares at Koori's retreating back)