Master Kaemon led me to an outdoor training ground, where other apprentices were practicing their swordsmanship skills. I watched in awe. It would take a lot of effort and time to catch up with them.
“What do you know about swordsmanship?” Master Kaemon asked, with his arms crossed.
“I…” I placed a hand on the sheath of my katana. “I don’t know much. I have never…used this katana,” I admitted, partly ashamed.
The master put his finger under my chin, raising my head with it, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Keep your head up,” he said. He retrieved his hand almost as soon as that line was said. “In that case, let’s not delay your training any further.”
After that, he began giving me intensive training. For the rest of the day, before I’d even set my belongings aside, I found myself running, dashing, lifting, and doing all sorts of physical exercises, some of which I didn’t even know existed. By the end of the day, I already felt much fitter than I had been in the morning, although exhausted as well. On the first day of training, Master Kaemon stood at a distance while instructing me, keeping a keen eye on my movements. I tried my best—that was all I could give.
In the evening, Miss Kameko approached the training ground. “Boys, it’s time for dinner. Please get yourselves cleaned and ready!” After shouting the order to us, she turned to the master. “Master Kaemon, dinner is ready for everyone.” That was said in an unusually cordial tone.
The master nodded in acknowledgement. Not a word was said before he turned from the training ground, walking alongside Miss Kameko. Watching his silhouette fade into the distance, I suddenly felt a strange sensation deep inside my chest. As I tried to identify it, there came the voice of another boy next to me.
“You the new guy?” he asked.
“Yes. I’m Jiro, nice to meet you,” I replied.
“I’m Suzu! Nice to meet you too, Jiro.” Suzu had a cheerful demeanor. He wore his hair in a high, fluffy ponytail. His ponytail wasn’t even half the length of Master Kaemon’s, but it was…cute, in a sense. His brown irises gleamed at me. “Miss Kameko has a crush on Master Kaemon, we all reckon. Don’t you think so too, Jiro? Even if you’ve only been here for a day.”
I stole another glance in the adults’ direction. After some thought, I answered, “Yes, I think so. She seems to admire him very much.”
“Right?” Suzu agreed. “Well, that can’t be helped. The master is charming man. But, you’re not bad either!” Leaving that casual comment, he led the way to the common shower room. “Come on, Jiro! Let’s get ourselves cleaned, or Miss Kameko will growl at us!”
“Growl?!” I ran after him.