Farewell to Grace

He had always had an ear for sound. In his youth, he had been in numerous bands, playing guitar sometimes, playing bass at others, standing in smoke filled rooms at the backs of bars in Shibuya and Shinjuku, Koenji and Ochanomizu. With the weight of his sword in his hand, it unnerved him that he could no longer sense the intent of the boy he had once considered an ally; that he could no longer hear the sound of his conviction.

Before all this had started, back when he had been a boy himself, playing in those hopeful bands in dead end venues, Daishinji Tetsuo had not considered the correlation between his musical sensitivity and the relationships he made. Back then, he had been living in a tiny box apartment in a tower block in Saitama. He would go for days without speaking to another human being, conversing only with the cat he pretended he didn't own whenever his landlord came around to inspect the property.

Those days had been hard, but they had been good, he thought, and even though he had been a perennially shy child, he had been surrounded by those who loved him, and those he loved. He remembered holding his cat in his arms the day he had been forced to give her away, standing on the doorstep of his ex-girlfriend's home with that small bundle of fur in his arms, knowing that there would be no place for her amidst the cold tundra of the Northern wastes where he had been summoned to train.

Starfish Hitler, the cat's name had been, he recalled, her tail constantly standing to attention, swishing back and forth, her pink behind forever on display, hence her name. He smiled, remembered the softness of her fur, the warmth of her purrs, remembered his ex-girlfriend, Ayane's tears as he had told her he was going away, remembered his friend, Kengo's look of distaste as he told him he was quitting the band.

Touma's blade clashed against his own, and he pushed back with force, trying not to lose himself in the past. Forcefully, he shoved the boy away, sparks flying from the edge of his weeping blade. He could sense nothing in the boy's actions that spoke of such sadness as he had known, nothing that told him of his intent, his conviction, his beliefs.

'You need to make your passion known,' he remembered Kengo saying in frustration, his guitar at his waist, one hand pushing back the fringe of bleached hair. 'That's what it means to rock, you know? That's the soul of rock!'

This boy, Kamiyama Touma, he thought; this could have learnt a lot from someone like Kengo.

His boots kicked against the cold ground, carrying him forward, muscles taught as he pulled back and swung the weight of his holy sword around, bringing it around in a devastating arc that drove the boy backwards once more, dropping him to his knees, his blade crying in his hands.

So much to learn, he thought, looking down at the boy as he struggled to pull himself to his feet. How could a child with no experience claim to write books, he wondered; how could a boy like this tell stories when he had not lived long enough to know anything of grief and sacrifice?

The recollection of Kento's features flashed painfully in his mind, and he grimaced. Perhaps that wasn't true, perhaps they had all known too much grief, too much sacrifice, perhaps that was why they were here now, a cold morning in January, their blades sparking with heat.

He thought of Ayane again, tearful on the doorstep of her family home, he thought of Kengo, his beloved guitar in his hands, and even thought of his cat, gentle and insistent, the world around her a constant source of fascination.

What do you fight for, Kamiyama Touma, he asked without words; what is it that drives you forward, that haunts every stroke of your blade?

Again, the boy came at him; again, he lifted his sword.