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Katsushirou-sama knelt beside her. "Kirara-dono..." he said hesitantly. "What is the scent of battle?"

"Blood," she said slowly, feeling so very sorry, "and with good men, there is always regret."

Flinching, he removed is hand from her grasp, and stared down at it. "It'll never come off," he said quickly. "You say you'll wash it, but I know that it - I know that it won't ever..." he clenched his hands, holding back a sob, "and I know you'll despise me if I cry." He frowned. "I have to learn to deal with death."

"Katsushirou-sama, if you wept," she said gently, using the more honorable word for it, "I would weep with you."

He looked surprised and then leaned forward, rested his head on her shoulder, and shook.

"Please..."

She embraced his shoulders with her arm and stroked the soft hairs at the base of his neck. She made herself think of that man's body and how glad she had felt to see him dead, of Katsushirou and how, in the city, she had looked at him critically, the way she'd seen village men look while pricing oxen or potential wives, assessing a creature for its usefulness; tears came to her eyes.

She had only wanted her village to be safe.

She had seen the fragile pride of a boy who longed to help in some important way, his good heart, and the blood he would soon have on his hands. She had not wanted this conflict to be his forging. Her village didn't need untested metal, she had thought. It needed men who had bled and killed and found their own strength.

She rocked slowly back and forth with him, weeping. What could she have done? She was sorry, she was so very sorry.

"Don't be sorry," he said fiercely. "It's worth it, it's worth it, it's worth it..."

You're worth it.