As I soon discovered, bubbly as Suzu might be, he was actually one of the best apprentices at swordsmanship. Whenever he had a katana in hand, he would become intensely focused and serious, his face void of the usual cheerful expression. In one particular training session, where all apprentices were to practice with their roommates, it felt like I was battling another person, rather than Suzu. The whole while, I must have kept on a dumbfounded expression, since, afterwards, Suzu teased me playfully, saying, “I would do anything to see that face of yours again!” while laughing hysterically. “So, so shocked! I mean, I know I must have been a bit different, but the battlefield is a different place by nature, from our dining hall and bedroom!” After saying that, he went on laughing again, leaving me in a state in which I wasn’t sure whether to laugh with him or feel embarrassed. In the end, I chose to laugh.
Meanwhile, intensive training with Master Kaemon continued, sometimes taking place in the evening. “Stop.” More than once, the master stopped me in the middle of my movements to correct my posture.
Of course, I stopped whenever he told me to.
“Wrong posture.” He adjusted the katana’s position in my hand. Then, with his hand over mine, he swung the blade the way he had intended me to understand a minute ago. He paused at the right posture, and said, “Remember this feeling, Jiro.”
“F-feeling?” I stammered, distracted by the sensation of his rough hand over mine, and the knowledge that he was standing very close to me. I whipped my head around to look at him.
“!” It might have been my imagination, a trick of the moonlight, but I could have sworn that there was a shade of pink… “I mean the feeling of the katana in your hand, and the posture you are holding right now.” However, Master Kaemon’s voice was unbelievably even. With this said, he released my hand and once again put distance between us.
“Y-yes, Master Kaemon,” I answered.
It must have been my imagination.