Somehow, Hyakkimaru had always known that he was different from the other souls that he could see.
Ever since a very young age, there was of course the fact that when he looked to his own soul, he saw its pure white tainted with an evil residual energy.
He had never seen another soul akin to his own. It made him wonder - what exactly was so sinful about him? Hyakkimaru didn’t feel at all as if he was harboring some sort of evil; he loved the soul who raised him as well as the other souls around him, ate well, and learned well. In fact, if he were to pinpoint any characteristics to himself, it would have been his passion for life and his distaste for evil. What about that could possibly draw sin so close to him?
Aside from the colour of his soul, there were numerous other clues which made Hyakkimaru feel like he did not quite fit in with the others. The other souls often did quite inexplicable things. They would touch him for seemingly no reason - strangers would push him, put unknown objects into his hands, and try to take him to unknown places. He couldn’t possibly fathom a reason for these souls’ seemingly random actions, and he could only assume that everyone else knew something that he did not. Could sense something that he could not. And yet, at the same time, others seemed to be completely clueless of the presence of malevolent beings. They continued on with their meaningless kerfuffle in spite of beings of huge evil looming all over them, completely unconcerned. Hyakkimaru could only come to the conclusion that they were unable to see.
And when he stole back his hearing from the demons, the pieces of what exactly he had been missing out on came slotting into place with the weight of a thousand steel bars.
An absolutely terrible storm raged through his skull, the wind casting the unrelenting roars of sound unto his inner ear. The fearsome cacophony threw him completely off balance; even the ground beneath his feet clawed at his temples every time he took a step, and before he knew it, he had somehow ended up on his side, the world before his eyes thrown upside-down. He was pretty sure nothing had knocked him over - the searing pain through his brain was so overwhelming that it was as if he could barely remember how to walk on two feet. There was nothing to do but to curl into the grass enveloping his torso, pressing his smooth, cold hands to his ears, and simply will the assault on his head to go away. However, it was still excruciatingly loud. Truthfully, even stepping into a fire as a result of pure curiosity hadn’t burned quite so much as the sound whirling through his every single nerve did.
After a while, he learned that he could pinpoint the sounds to things that could be seen and felt. Even his prosthetics against his skin reverberated through his entire body, and his kimono rustled with each tiny movement he made. And, then one sound came a lot louder than all the rest, and became rapidly familiar to him. It was what he would soon come to know as a human voice - more specifically, the voice of a human named Dororo.
After meeting that soul, he had soon come to the conclusion that it was a child. The soul was small, but human-shaped, and often ran about unreservedly and clung to Hyakkimaru in the way that children do. Hyakkimaru was not extremely versed as far as appropriately expressing emotion went; he knew he was very fond of the child who started tagging along with him, and he was very content in showing that by protecting them from any evil which may come their way, but otherwise, displays of love were not something he really comprehended how to put together. He would embrace Dororo the way his guardian had done for him, but often, Dororo outwardly rejected the contact, despite the fact that the colour of their soul would shimmer a little brighter. Hyakkimaru couldn’t begin to understand the contradiction, but he felt abundant with contentment that he was able to convey his attachment to the child even a little.
Dororo’s constant flow of words were a nuisance - a physical pain, at first. But once Hyakkimaru recognised them as an outlet of Dororo’s thoughts and feelings, he began to pay a little more attention. The language that he had seized from the demons also began to make more sense, albeit in agony. Thousands of words rattled through his forehead, and the speed at which they coursed through his neurons made it incredibly difficult to work out which word meant what; a meaningful sentence would assemble in his ears just as quickly as it was doused by a sea of countless other noises and words, rendering his little understanding of language a confusion rather than a helpful communication tool.
Nevertheless, the more Dororo spoke to him, the more the gift of language straightened itself out. The realisation that Dororo could let him know exactly what they were thinking within a mere few seconds absolutely confounded him. No wonder he had felt he was not quite fitting in with the others. All of those times he had not heard what his companions were saying to him, all of the warnings, all of the punishment - sixteen years of unheard feelings. Although, it was a little difficult to feel grateful for his gained ability when it had also thrust a pounding headache and the inability to run or fight properly upon him.
Hyakkimaru wondered if he would also be able to talk one day. Even if he were physically able to, he wasn’t sure he could create an intelligible sentence; he could vaguely understand Dororo’s energetic cries and shushed mutterings, but the mere concept of commandeering the language by himself made his headache grow fiercer. He had a lifetime of communicating by his actions and his touch. So ironically, for something that existed merely for communication, sound was a completely unknown territory for Hyakkimaru, hence he would barely know how to begin to approach it.
He understood that behind the pain, sound could also be beautiful. He found that a human’s singing could easily console not only his throbbing head, but also his troubled heart. What a peculiar thing. He could sense that his ears were connected to his balance and his brain, but never the depths of his chest.
That was the first time he wished he understood how to speak back. He wished he could touch another’s heart like so, wished that he could ask the sweet souls around him all of the exigent questions that weighed oh-so heavy in his consciousness.
But for now, he would settle for touching them with the fine-grained wood of his fingertips.