|Way of the Sword
Author: thesadisttensaifuji PM
A sudden visit from an old acquaintance saw Sanada exposing himself in more ways than one. But in the end, he had a lot to be thankful for. Birthday fic for The Jabberer.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship - Sanada G. - Words: 2,297 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-25-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7493815
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I know this is long overdue but, happy birthday, Jab! Sorry it took me a while to finish this, I was buried in papers and exams for the past month. I made it extra special to compensate for the tardiness, so I hope you'll like it!
Disclaimer: Konomi Takeshi owns Prince of Tennis.
The sound of bamboo swords clashing with each other gradually died down as a pair of light footsteps approached Sanada Genichirou. The students of kendo in the dojo had stopped their training to take a good look at their colleague, who was now bowing before the emperor. They were wondering who amongst themselves would dare ask the emperor for a practice match. Nobody knew who mister brave heart was, as he was already wearing his mask.
The poor guy must have had a death wish to desire a sparring session with Sanada, the students thought.
They all heard about the slapping rumors, though none of them was able to confirm it based on first-hand experience. As if anyone would want to, anyway. Thus, all of them trained extra hard during Sanada's watch every Sunday, and all had been well.
In the last few weeks, however, Sanada was more disgruntled than usual. Not even a single one of the students voluntarily fought with him, because he would always end up thrashing them more than necessary. Everyone avoided any sort of contact, even as tiny as a glance good for nanoseconds.
Sanada was not that dense to not notice that the students were scared as hell of him. He knew he was intimidating, but the occasional requests for practice matches were gone altogether. He had no way to distract him from the frustrations tennis had given him.
First, Tezuka left for Germany to recuperate from his shoulder injury. Just when he was ready to face him in a rematch and avenge his loss three years ago. And then, Yukimura too, passed out due to a disease requiring an operation in order for him to play tennis again. Just when Rikkai was on its way to a third national championship.
Really, such inopportune timing for things to happen.
And that was why he would demand someone for a practice match in kendo every week, and go all out to whoever the lucky one was.
Today though, was different. Sanada was slightly surprised when a student finally challenged him without him having to force anyone to be his opponent again. He sensed that everyone was interested at this sudden turn of events upon noticing the pregnant silence, and thus decided to end the agony once and for all.
"Alright," he said to the still bowing student and fetched his shinai(1) from the nearby wall.
While donning his protective gear, Sanada observed his opponent. He was around fifteen centimeters taller than him, and he could tell that he was a bit skinny judging how his white gi(2) and blue hakama(3) clung to his body. He briefly wondered who among the students had such a physique to gauge his skill level, but he quickly dismissed the thought.
He didn't need to know who he was up against. He would win no matter what.
The crowd of students parted as the two players stepped on the imaginary shiaijou(4) in the middle of the dojo, anticipating yet another display of Sanada's abilities. They were used to the one-sided matches, as what had always happened.
After the customary bow, the two players walked towards each other, drew their shinai, and assumed the squatting position. At the timid call of "hajime"(5) by one of the students, they stood up simultaneously, lightly tapped the tips of each other's shinai, and took small, calculated steps forward.
With one, slightly unsure step of the student, Sanada took the chance and went on the offensive.
Because of the height difference, it was only logical for Sanada to aim for a men(6). But apparently, the student knew of this too, and was thus able to block all the blows to his head.
Sanada stepped back a bit.
Not bad. Let's try another one.
His approach was more aggressive this time, determined to win a point. Their shinai clashed for a good minute or so, and Sanada was slowly getting tired of the highly defensive play of his opponent.
He aimed for a tsuki(7) in one final thrust after pushing for an opening, but to his surprise, the student managed to evade his attack. The shinai only grazed his shoulder instead of his throat.
He's got fast reflexes. But I'll definitely get him this time.
Only the sound of the shinai clashing, the feet landing on the wooden floor, and Sanada's kiai(8) could be heard in the entire dojo. The students were in silent awe of the shiai(9) before their very eyes. It had been ages since one of them had measured up to the emperor in a practice match.
Disappointed groans were thus heard after the student dropped his shinai as Sanada's made contact with his right forearm. Penalty.
Sanada too, was displeased with himself. He was actually aiming for a do(10), but hit a kote(11) instead. The opponent was too agile for him to easily land a strike on his torso.
He narrowed his eyes at the student, who was currently bending down to pick up his shinai. If he had such speed up his sleeve, why hadn't he attacked? What was he up to?
The emperor was waiting for the usual bow as the student walked casually towards him, but his eyebrows rose when a good number of seconds passed and yet the student merely stood in front of him. The match was technically over, ending in a draw. Admittedly, he had to hand it to him for accomplishing a feat that nobody had been able to do for some time now. But what in the world–
Sanada's eyes widened as the student removed his mask, revealing his face for the first time. Long, dark brown hair flowed out as the handkerchief holding it in place came off with the mask.
"It's been a while, Sanada-kun."
"You should've at least told us you're coming," Sanada said as he poured her a cup of tea. His parents were out due to some business, while his grandfather was probably wandering off on his own again.
After the class found out that his opponent was actually girl, and that the said girl had forced him into a draw, they started to bombard her with a lot of questions. He dismissed them immediately, not allowing whatever was left of his pride to be wounded any further. Of course, she was one of the best kendoka(12) who hailed from the dojo, as he had introduced her to the class, but still.
Sanada frowned. They really should have continued until the winner was decided. Now, he had another match to settle.
"It was sudden. I had an appointment somewhere near here, so I decided to drop by," Kawase said. And then, she added while smirking, "And of course, it was fun seeing your shocked expression when I decided to make my identity known. That was priceless."
Sanada chose to ignore her teasing and placed the cup on the table. They were currently in the tatami(13) room he had been using for training and meditation as she insisted, arguing that attending to visitors counted as practice of tradition.
"How did you get the clothing and equipment, anyway?" he asked with a slightly annoyed voice.
"Your grandfather. I met him just before he stepped outside to take a walk."
"I should've known."
The exchange ended there, and for several minutes, none of them broke the silence. Sanada was not one for small talk, and it looked like Kawase wasn't good with pleasantries either. They were people who communicated with their bamboo swords better than their mouths do.
Kawase's eyes discreetly scanned the room as she breathed in the aroma of the tea, allowing it to cool a little.
She spotted one of the bundles of straw used as a practice dummy in the corner. It had been cut with a katana(14), but to the trained eye, the cut was not as clean as it should be. Small fibers of straw were protruding from the side.
Her eyes particularly lingered on the calligraphy on the hanged scrolls, taking notice of some tiny unnecessary strokes, most likely from the slightest excess force applied to the brush.
She then grabbed her cup and calmly sipped her tea. It was only a little, but she could detect a bitter taste. The water was probably too hot, or simmered too long.
"You're pushing yourself too hard," Kawase finally said as she put down her cup.
"What are you talking about?" Sanada eyed her warily.
Her crimson eyes steadily met his hazel ones. Her gaze was serious, certain, and unfaltering, reflecting her exact thoughts in that moment.
You can't fool me. I already figured you out.
Sanada was the first to look away and let out a small sigh in defeat. His right hand moved to pull the brim of his cap, but he suddenly remembered he wasn't wearing one.
"You're just too relaxed," he simply stated, lacking the usual authority and annoyance with which he had often said it.
"And you haven't changed at all," she lightly chuckled as she stood up, grabbing a katana in the wall.
She placed the used practice dummy in the middle of the room, positioned herself in front of it, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. And, in one swift motion, she opened her eyelids, unsheathed the sword, and slashed the bundle of straw.
Sanada watched as the small, protruding fibers gracefully fell on the floor, while Kawase put the sword back into the sheath with equal elegance and utmost discipline of a skilled warrior.
She then turned to him, smirk in place and taunting.
"Are you still up for another round?"
The sounds of their bamboo swords clashing, their bare feet landing on the wooden floor, and their respective kiai echoed in the now empty dojo. It followed a certain rhythm, blended in a certain harmony. It created a simple symphony of music ringing in their ears, in which they were the orchestra and the singers, and that there was no maestro. They were simply following the beat of adrenalin, excitement, and thrill, guided by the way of the sword.
Sanada stared at Kawase's crimson eyes through the mask. They were so determined, so intense, so focused, that it seemed like she was living in that moment only and nowhere else. He wondered why he had not noticed earlier the way they shone like ruby gems, sparkling but hard.
Her voice was full, filled with absolute certainty in every grunt and cry. Her grip was firm, and the landing of her feet was sure. Every strike and thrust of her shinai, every movement of her body, everything seemed innate and natural.
She was pushing him to his limits.
They were fighting for half an hour now, the absence of referees pushing them to determine the winner themselves through an encho(15). Both successfully connected with valid strikes, more often almost simultaneously in one exchange.
Sanada's eyes changed, and in one invisible swing, he finally hit her heavily protected side. He then shifted to thrust his shinai in her throat, but stopped himself midway upon seeing the dullness in her eyes.
He already won.
They released their breath and panted heavily, suddenly aware of the beads of sweat trickling down their bodies and the tiredness of their limbs. Still, they managed to bow to each other to finally seal the outcome of the match.
"You really hate to lose, don't you?" Kawase said, this time with a smile. She had already taken off her mask and wiped her face with the handkerchief.
"Nonsense. Nobody wants to lose," Sanada averted her glance, hiding the satisfied light in his eyes. He too, had his mask removed and was wiping his forehead with a towel.
"With that strictness of yours, you'd surely have more people other than Sasuke-kun* to treat you an old man," she teased him again, careful to place herself some distance away in case she popped a sensitive nerve.
When he only answered with furrowed eyebrows and increased creases in his forehead, she decided to draw the last straw.
"So," she began, placing her hands behind her back as she walked to the door. "See you around, oji-san!"(16)
Sanada mustered all the self-control and patience he had left, and chose to let her slide. After all, he did owe her one. She had done him a favor by helping him find something that was lost, by teaching him something that was forgotten.
And although she was already out of sight, Sanada bowed in gratitude.
1) Shinai – Bamboo sword
2) Gi – Upper piece of the kendo uniform
3) Hakama – Lower piece of the kendo uniform
4) Shiaijou – Tournament arena
5) Hajime – Begin
6) Men – Head (a valid target in kendo)
7) Tsuki – Throat (a valid target in kendo)
8) Kiai – Battle cry
9) Shiai – Kendo match
10) Do – Torso (a valid target in kendo)
11) Kote – Forearm (a valid target in kendo)
12) Kendoka – Kendo practitioner
13) Tatami – Japanese mat used as flooring material
14) Katana – Japanese sword
15) Encho – Extension period (in a kendo match)
16) Oji-san – Uncle
*Sasuke-kun is Sanada's canon nephew.