He was old. Far too old to rise and greet me, let alone wield the sword I had carried across my back. For two seasons I had rode and walked and hungered and thirsted, never sleeping for more than a few hours and never letting the weapon slip from my grasp.
And now He, the great warrior the scrolls told of, sat before me, legs crossed beneath him on the tatami mat and I wondered, not for the first time, if it was all for nought.
A geisha brought us tea. The delicate dance of ceremonies that settled my nerves as I bowed after receiving the small cup and sipped lightly. The old warrior smiled.
“She is my granddaughter.”
“Please, Tsuwamonosan, forgive my eyes. It has been many days since they have seen anything but paddies and peasants.”
“Your eyes may be honest. But I do not believe your tongue.”
I set the cup down and bowed slightly, the pommel of the sword peaking from behind my head and catching the light of the candles.
“You say you see only peasants, and yet I smell the blood of men on you. Tell me, you have killed these peasants? These simple folk working for their lords.”
“No revered one, every man felled by my hand was guilty of mortal intent. I would never harm an innocent.”
“And so the lie. You freely admit to killing and yet you say you have seen none but families.”
“Excuse my ambiguity revered one. I meant no disrespect or deception. I am but a simple messenger.”
“No. You are anything but.”
I tried to hide my shame but like the bandits from the cold north, it could not be outrun.
I felt the blade, the constant weight between my shoulder blades, my nighttime companion and most loyal friend, rise from the scabbard across my back. I swung, furious at myself for the momentary lapse of concentration, but the blade was already gone.
The old warrior stood there. He had risen without a whisper. The blade hummed as he moved it delicately through the air, both hands on the tsuka.
“Take it,” he said, holding out the weapon to me.
I could feel the steel, the cool rush of anticipation that had preceded every attack upon my route to this very moment. But something more. The impact of every strike the blade had ever made, from the hammering on the blacksmith’s anvil to its first kill and every one since, now coursed through the blade and, by extension, my being.
I looked into the eyes of the old warrior and saw a youthfulness that had not been there a moment ago.
“There is one Tsuwamono. The blade, it remembers, and it chooses. And to whom it has forged an alliance, it gifts all knowledge of its forebearers.”
“But this weapon was meant for you revered one, not I.”
“It is meant for the warrior the Kingdoms need. It’s need is greater than any one man can provide. I have taught the steel well. I trust you shall do the same.”
Prompt originally posted by NJ_Chef on reddit and received 8 upvotes.