I think that my status update: "Ah, memories. When I was around 12, "Flute of the Fallen Tiger" was the bloodiest thing I'd ever seen, and "Half Mat, etc." was one of the most sad." pretty much sums this volume up. As an adult, neither of those superlatives may be true, but it's overall an extremely strong volume nonetheless. We've already seen Itto assassinate good and innocent people, but in "Half Mat..." we first see him kill, and not even as an assassination job, someone who's not only a good person, but whom we, and our protagonists, like. Sakon's the kind of character who would be the hero in most stories, and it goes to point out just how strange and different an anti-hero Itto is. That this story is followed by the one that finally shows us an origin is even better.
Basically, this series is great.