I hadn’t forgotten that the Haki weren’t the only clan in the world, and I hadn’t forgotten that some conflicts took place every now and then. That was why I was beginning to wonder, after a couple of months, why it was so oddly peaceful at the base. A month after that, I was beginning to think that it really was peaceful—and that was when something finally happened.
At the time, I was jogging in the training ground alone late at night—it had become a habit to do that once a week, as I believed I was still lagging behind the other apprentices. As I felt the night breeze brush against my cheek, all of a sudden, I felt that the direction of the breeze had changed for a moment. There was a gush of wind, but it wasn’t the breeze that I had grown accustomed to. There, I slowed to a halt, and looked around.
Fortunately, I had already spent ten minutes there that night, and my eyes had grown used to the darkness. The bushes to my left whistled. I jumped back. Was it a rat?
A figure, covered entirely in black, emerged. “Are you a Haki apprentice?” she asked, her voice was deep, but her tone was very feminine.
“Yes…who might you be?” I asked, insensitive to the situation, as I had never experienced it before.
The female ninja ignored my question, but asked another. “Where is the master of this place?”
“Uh…” From the hostility in her voice, even I had to know that I wasn’t to lead her to Master Kaemon.
“Won’t tell, huh?” There was a metal sound, then something silver glinting under the moonlight. I had thought that it was a katana, but I took that thought back as soon as that “something” came flying towards me.
I ducked, regretting leaving my katana in the bedroom. Then, it crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be helpful even if I had brought it. What she had tossed at me was a shuriken, and I surely didn’t know how to deal with that. For the next long minute, I found myself dodging, trying not to get caught. At the same time, I didn’t quite understand why I needed to do that—she was after the master, was she not?
At some point, the ninja stopped, standing now with a dagger in her hand. Slowly, she strode towards me, not forgetting to maintain a graceful feminine poise as she did. I wondered about her reason for that, too. “It’s occurred to me that you will remain loyal to your master no matter what,” she said.
“I will,” I answered firmly. Although I hadn’t spoken at all during her attack—shamefully, it was simply because I had no spare energy for that—declaring my loyalty was an instinct.
“Then I can’t let you tell him tomorrow that you’ve seen me. There aren’t many female ninjas around here.” She gripped me by the collar, pulling me towards her. No matter how hard I tried, somehow, I couldn’t escape the tight grasp of a female. Even with both hands, I couldn’t tear her fingers away from my neck.
She raised the dagger.
As if in slow motion, she made a move to stab me with it. I held my breath; maybe my heart even stopped beating at that moment, at the thought that I was going to be killed by a woman.
Then, a quick shadow flashed by. There was a clink, and a shove. I found myself free from the ninja’s grip, falling to the ground with a soft thud. I looked up.
It was only in that instant that I finally understood Master Kaemon’s glare. It made perfect sense as I watched the magnificent master battle the ninja. His glare hadn’t grown any fiercer, but it fit the situation like a missing puzzle piece. It seemed that the ninja was caught off guard by the master showing up, and it was heard in her tone as she asked, “Why would you betray yourself for a mere apprentice?”
I looked to the master, whose katana beat the ninja’s dagger in a way that made her gradually back towards the wall. “I will not betray those who are loyal to me.”
It was then that I noticed, the ninja, while avoiding Master Kaemon’s strikes, was sprinting around the training ground, picking her shuriken up one by one. “Master—” I raised my voice to tell him, in case he hadn’t already noticed.
“I know.” His eyes never left the dark silhouette as he replied to me. “The corner.”
When he mentioned “the corner”, the ninja stole a glance toward the direction which the master had mentioned. But in fact, there was nothing there. It was an instruction for me. “Yes, master,” I answered, obeying.
Master Kaemon took the female’s moment of distraction to his advantage. As I darted to the direction he had hinted me to, I glimpsed his blade graze her leg. It seemed strange to me that he didn’t just knock her out, instead making a slash of an awkward shape. I stopped in the position Master Kaemon had intended. When they approached my direction, the master swiped his blade across her feet, and she jumped. As she jumped, I raised my arms up, tossing her up and out of the gate.
When she was gone, he sheathed his katana again. “Well done, Jiro,” he said to me, offering his hand. When I reached out as well, Master Kaemon helped me get back on my feet.
“Thank you, Master Kaemon.” With the moonlight shining upon him, he seemed more dazzling to me than ever. “Did you hear us from your room?”
“No,” he answered, turning around to walk back to the house such that I couldn’t see his expression. “I watch you every week. Take your katana with you next time.”
I smiled to myself. “Yes, Master Kaemon.”