First Blood

Every path begins somewhere... even the bloodiest
By Kuro-Hebi · Sep 19, 2016 · Updated Sep 19, 2016 ·
  1. Kuro-Hebi
    2016.09.19 - First Blood
    In Japanese standards, he was barely out of boyhood. His uncle had sent him away to join the Dragon; he'd be under their care now, his uncle's task as mentor and teacher was done. One year of training, secluded in a secret location somewhere in China, and the new recruits were sent into the field. Some had it easier than other.

    To those who had shown great skills in battle, being 'set free' also meant the end of their innocence. Katsuro was among them; he already had years of training with the sword before he even joined the secret society. But maybe his family's history had something to do with it. Generations of willing servants of the Dragon, their devotion absolute. Thus he was given a letter with instructions when he left the Dragon's coils - which wasn't in Seoul at the time, this would only happen some 10 years later, after WW2 - and he made his way to Hong Kong, his now iconic katana at his belt. The sword felt wrong in his hands back then as he lacked the power to wield it properly. It would take many more years before he and the sword truly became one, but any path must start somewhere, and this was it for young Katsuro. Twenty-one years old and he was sent to kill a man.

    He was still very mortal at that time and thus, even though he knew of its existence, Agartha travel was not an option. The trip was rather long, plenty of time to think and doubt. Would he even be able to follow his mission to the end? What if he couldn't? Would he have to flee... but surely they'd find him. Would his mother be proud that he followed the mission or that he spared a life instead? By the time Katsuro reached his destination, his hands were shaking and his mind was all but at peace. Nevertheless, he followed the letter's instruction and managed to find his target. A man in his late 40's, he looked quite ordinary, had a little shop selling tobacco and newspapers and other quickly consumed literature. Katsuro waited for the sky to turn dark and the man to close shop, his little stand almost forgotten in the badly lit street. One long breath - the familiar click of his blade being pushed ever so slightly from its sheathe with his thumb - another breath... the man walked away and disappeared into a dark alley, probably toward his home.

    Katsuro stood there shaking like a leaf, just looked at the man walk away. That's when he realized he'd been holding his breath and, with a gasping sound, he let the air in his lungs. It tasted of dirt and mold, of whatever was rotting in the back alley, with a hint of tobacco. It tasted of fear and confusion. That night, he found a cheap hotel and crashed on the bed, fully clothed, his dreams haunted by shadows of doubt.

    The next day was gray, just like his mood, and Katsuro spent it wandering the streets of Hong Kong. He was no closer to finding an answer to his unspoken question. Yet that evening, he came back to the little newspaper stand and waited, just like the night before, until the man in his late 40's closed shop and began walking toward that same dark alley. Katsuro's hands were still shaking - one long breath, and the click of his katana - but this time his feet did move and he dashed forward, his blade sending a wave of crimson splashing upon the brick wall.

    He was back in the Dragon's Coils a few days later. His handler was very pleased and his comrades were cheering for him on a first mission well done. Didn't they realized he'd just ended a life? Katsuro travelled back to Japan after this, he needed to see his mother. Maybe she'd be mad, or just disappointed, even saddened by his action. As he stepped inside the ancestral home of his family, she waited for him with a soft smile. She didn't say a word, just motioned for him to sit by her side. There was a newspaper on the tea table near her, with an article highlighted. Obviously his eyes were drawn to it and he read, not once but twice, before looking back at her, wide eyed.

    "Never doubt the Dragon , Katsuro. Every action, may it be small or big, has significance." His mother told him softly.

    As years passed by, Katsuro learned that not all lives taken may seem 'fairly taken' at first glance. But the Dragon always has a reason and, with enough patience, he was often witness to the after effect of his actions. He learned to not question his orders, that he alone had not the gift to 'see' the ripples he and his fellow comrades made upon time and upon mankind. Now his blade is steady and his eyes as crimson as the blood he spilled over the last century.


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