A lone blade decides the fate of a nation... (1剣は国の運命を決定する)
That is the principle that we have always lived by. I do not pretend to understand the greater workings of the world, for that is not my intended purpose. I was born and forged as a blade. One that will never see the light of day.
Tonight I was called from across a distant land, to travel to a forgotten castle. Here, away from all things mundane, sits a lord who views himself as a mortal god. He does not speak to his people; he does not show his face. Instead he allows his chosen 'angels' to rule the nation in his stead.
This has led to severe unrest in some provinces and for the sake of maintaining the greater peace, the shadow of fire (火災影) has decided that we will strike him down. If one man's blood can save the lives of many, then he should be glad to have it spilled. These were the words that I was left with, as I journeyed from my village to seek out this 'God'.
I found him in the quiet of the night, meditating within the confines of an ancient and forgotten castle. He was seated in its centre, perhaps symbolic of being its core. Yet his guards were complacent and most were lax. Slovenly might be the right word to use, for many were sleeping instead of protecting their lord.
Indeed, I wondered, who could have possibly seen it? That death would be coming for him on such a calm and peaceful night (死は今夜あなたのために来る)
Quietly, I crept into the darkness beneath the castle's heavy roof. Slowly, I ascended it without making a sound: no tiles cracked beneath my feet; nor did the wind shiver at my touch. I was light as a feather and my steps as quick.
His guards died silently as I progressed through the castle. Each one I returned to the embrace of the shadows. And there they would lie forgotten until the light of the morning came.
A snap of the neck was all it took while the many guardsmen slept, but those that walked felt the sting of my blade as it passed through their necks. In the dim glow of the candlelight, blood was always slow. It shifted through the air in tiny spheres, as the head rolled from the body...
Eventually, I arrived within the 'God's' chamber and he seemed, at the time, to be doing calligraphy. What words could he be painting onto the paper? This I couldn't help but wonder as I approached him.
"You are as loud as thunder, (あなたは、雷のように騒々しいです)" the 'God' growled, his back still turned toward me. Immediately I froze, wondering how he could have known. The 'God' continued to paint with his brush, his back turned as he addressed me. He did not appear the least bit concerned about my presence...
"My guards, you killed them all. I could hear as their hearts fell silent. It is strange for the night to be so quiet. Do you not agree shinobi?" He asked me.
Again, I remained silent.
"You do not need to talk; I am not interested in your words. Tonight, you will kill me. Tonight you will carry out the instructions from your, grand shadow or whoever else has sent you; but I ask you this. Can a blade understand the responsibility of its actions? Can you understand the governance of a nation? You are like a young child, one who does not know his purpose. He listens to his parents, but he has never grown beyond that. You will kill me, but you will be a lesser man."
And in the end, he was right. I slaughtered him, for that was my duty. A single stroke of my wakizashi and he was gone. Yet, his final words made me question the deeds that I had done here. He was right in a sense, for I did not know the true responsibility of my actions. I was acting based on what I had been told, but I had never asked for the answer myself.
For the first time in my life I felt, unsure, disturbed. My heart would not quiet itself and the scene felt wrong. Where once the shadows would have welcomed me; now they seemed eerily cold. I reviewed my actions hastily, trying to find the error: I had begun my steps perfectly, my swing was not slow. He had died painlessly, as my blade bit into his throat. I reviewed the moment of his flesh separating, blood squirting in tiny spritz as his head tumbled from his shoulders. The bone was cleanly cut, perfectly straight; there was no outburst of air or needless thrashing. No error could be found in the stroke. So why did it feel wrong?
In my mind, my first solution was to seek the advice of the shadow of fire: my lord and master. Yet that would have been exactly as the false 'God' predicted. I would be no different than a child, running to his parent for comfort. I would not have understood my own actions and that would have brought me suffering...
In the end, I found myself drawn toward the script that the 'God' had been painting. It called to me, suggesting that I needed to read it. Yet reading it here was not ideal, not while the morning came to wash the shadows away.
And so, I fled into the depths of the night. His script carried in my arms like a baby, or perhaps like a child holding a precious gift. If I was to become a man, if I was to have the shadows accept me once again. Then first I would need to understand the weight of my actions and decide for myself: was I truly a shinobi or merely a naked blade?