The following is a short story written by a colleague of mine. It is in essence talking about the way of the Sword, and how it is not about violence for the sake of violence. I hope you like it, and I know Kiril does too.
“You hold the sword incorrectly.” The voice came from behind her. The owner stood close to the bodyguard. He was tall and muscular, with blue eyes yet in spite of his physical size his face retained the fresh look of youth. He looked good in a suit, as is always the case with muscular men. The bodyguard looked at her but she nodded.
Bodyguards… they were always around her and she hated them. She tried not to see them, to ignore them, but it was impossible. Even when she couldn’t see them she knew they were there. Somewhere close at hand, watching her… sometimes too close. They were quiet ruthless individuals. Her servants in many ways, but they power they had over her made them her masters. They didn’t see her, just a piece of meat they had to protect She was nothing to them.
She though once about what would happen if she were to fall in love with one of them, or simply to have sex… something! It was a wearied thought – to have sex with somebody who makes you fell everything but a woman. She shuddered at the thought. They were men, but no longer human beings. They had been once, but no… they were empty.
“Te-no-uchi – the way one holds a sword” he continued. “It is not correct, you do it wrong.”
He came closer and pointed at her grip. He held a drink in his hand. She watched as the surface of the liquid barely moved in spite of the indicative motion.
They were at a boring party and she had wandered off. There was a katana, hanging on the wall. Out of curiosity, she had pulled it out in order to have a closer look. Somehow, she felt attracted to the shiny blade. It had been made with one simple purpose – to cut humans flash. She could feel it… and she liked the way she felt holding it.
The man looked at her, challenging her, but without arrogance. If anything, he seemed intrigued. He was just standing there, ignoring the bodyguards that surrounded them both. A chance to flirt a little, to feel a woman once more; it was perfect. She turned her back to the wall, and looked up at the empty scabbard – saya.
“You have to hold it with two hands but only four fingers – the little and ring finger of each hand… try it.” He took a sip of his drink. “First, grab the sword with your left hand… only the little and ring fingers. Watch, the little finger should not be on the last diamond of the handle but the one before. Yes, that’s correct… now relax the other three fingers and allow the sword to rest comfortably against your palm.”
She followed the instructions and the sword stood quietly and ominously with a rising edge before her and protecting her. She liked it.
Now, put the other hand in the same way – roughly one finger under the guard tsuba.
Standing there, everything felt in its place and she shivered. The blade stood between her and the rest of the world but something was missing. She had this strange desire to take her shoes off.
“I have this strange feeling I am not doing something right.” She said.
“Do you know what is really strange? For someone who has never touched a sword before, actually you do everything quite right… relax your grip some more. You have to feel your sword and more importantly, you have to feel through it. You are one whole. The Japanese say you have to hold a sword like a bird. If you squeeze too hard, you will crush it, if you relax it too much the bird will fly away. You must learn to hold it just right.” He explained, stepping closer to her. Closer than any man had been in a long time.
She didn’t know why, but his words made sense. She let the sword lay in her hands. Al of a sudden, she changed, without a reason, she realized that she was holding a weapon. AN instrument designed to kill.
“Before we can continue, I have to warn you about something. Nowadays there are certainly more dangerous weapons than the one you hold, but it doesn’t make it safe. Do you understand?” He began, his voice taking on the tone of a teacher.
She looked at him, surprised by the sudden change in his demeanor.
“There are various swords boken – a wooden sword, iaito – a real sword in every way except it is not sharp… what you hold in your hands is called shin-ken – this is the real stuff… you are holding a sharp sword… very sharp.”
“So what?” She was annoyed. Where did this lecture come from?
“What I am trying to say is that if you are not careful, you will hurt yourself. You could cut yourself and not even feel the pain. This blade has been perfected over few centuries in the name of one purpose and one purpose only.”
“To cut human flash, right?” She smiled and looked at him triumphantly. She laughed at herself and her guess. Everything about the sword began to make sense and she couldn’t resist it.
He was surprised and little confused, but he shook off his doubts and continued with the lesson.
What I was saying is that, you are a beautiful woman… yes, you are” He repeated himself upon seen the look on her face the moment he mentioned her beauty. “If you are not careful you will be a beautiful cripple marked for rest of your life. This blade is not just made to cut human flash. It is made to kill.”
She looked him straight in the eyes. It wasn’t funny anymore nor annoying. She didn’t know how to describe the sensations she felt, the change in the atmosphere around her, but she still loved it. She nodded.
He smiled. Yet she could see in his eyes that his initial doubts, whatever they were, were not gone.
“Please, just be careful, ok?” He sipped from his drink and looked around. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t figure it out. He turned to her with a smile.
“Unfortunately, we have to stop here.” There was a hidden urgency in his voice.
“Why?” she asked disappointed.
“Because, next in the agenda is to fix your posture and in order to do this, you have to take your shoes off and to step barefooted on the ground. This is something…”
She gracefully took her shoes off without bending over and stood back in position.
The bodyguards looked back to assess the situation – everything seemed normal so they turned back.
“Very well,” he seemed relaxed once more. “Put your right foot slightly forward. The entire foot should be on the ground. Now the left one, move it backwards a half step. You should leave your heel a bit off the ground… Great! Now, do you know where your center of gravity is?” He paused, but did not wait for an answer. “It is where the line extends from the handle of yours sword and intersects with your body. This is your hara… roughly three fingers below the navel. The Japanize believe this is the place where your spirit resides. It is not coincidence that when a samurai kill himself – hara-kiri – they cut right there. Relax your belly and let your body weigh from this point… excellent… Do not forget – now you step on ‘the way of the sword’.., ‘the way of a samurai’. It is crucial to understand that.”
She stopped listening to him. She felt the harmony between her body, her spirit and the sword. It was complete. Ki-Ken-Tai-ichi. The is what he would have said if she asked him to explain what she felt. She didn’t. She had not expected this and wasn’t prepared but she loved it… a lot. She had the power and the control over the world around her – Something she hadn’t felt for a long time. Actually she had never felt like this before… not in the same way.
“Now the cut,” the man brought her back to the reality – ki-rio-ro-shi – this the basic and the most common attack. You have to bring the sword above your head and slice. Remember, the movement begins with your little finger on the left hand. This is the trigger.
“Then I have to cut, right? You told me already.” He was confused by her response.
“Well… you have concentrate and try to cut with the very tip of the sword – mono-uchi – This is the key.
He looked at her, again. He wasn’t sure what was happening or where it would go.
“I have to swing and hit hard, right?” She asked.
“No,” he smiled. “Not at all. You must replace power with precision. Think of it as though you were holding a large scalpel. You have to thrust the sword. It is all about driving it and nothing more. The rest, you must leave to the blade.”
She looked first straight ahead then left. She raised the sword above her head and just like he taught her, she struck the bodyguard on her left. The blade whistled through the air. She looked again at the bodyguard in front of her who had half turned his upper body. He reached for his gun and froze. She seized the moment and slashed at the bodyguard on her right who tried to stop her. The last bodyguard tried to pull his gun but it was too late. The blade whistled in the air again.
The screaming crowd rushed for the exit, leaving her, the man and three bodies. She turned slowly towards the man while rising the sword – ready to attack again.
“This is the way of the sword, the way of a samurai, right?” Her eyes gleamed, and she smiled, her face speckled with fresh blood.
He looked at her in horror. “No… No… this is not the way of a samurai, this is the way of a killer… you are nothing but a killer… you…”
“Well… it is a bit too late to explain it now… don’t you think?”
The blade whistled once more, finding its target with ease. She slowly returned to basic position, pulling the bloody sword from the body first.
The man dropped to his knees. Blood soaked his hands where he held them clamped over the wound. He made no sound, but the last thought he had was that it was just as they claimed… he felt no pain at all.
5 thoughts on “Non-Samurai – A Short Story by Kiril Vassilev”
Oh wow. This short story was brilliant. So much said with so little. Thank you.
I agree Andrea. It was his first attempt at writing a short story like this, and as English is not him native language it was very impressive.
Thanks for commenting, and feel free to share 🙂
Two more reasons to be impressed. 🙂
An awesome story. I’m jealous of the style and precision in his writng. Very impressive.
The messages, context, and twist at the end are all great but I loved the detail on how to use the sword. (Of course I’d would have to notice that. lol) I’ve always thought it fascinating the differences between the Asian sword style and the European. It’s so much more interesting and fun to watch someone trained to be precise instead of hacking.