This is not so much a story, but a fictionalization of an Iaido waza from Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu in the Okuden Tachiwaza set. It is known as Shinobu, wherein you stalk someone with the intent to assassinate them in the dark. I recently learned this waza and telling a tale about it helps me to remember it. FYI, I made Shodan rank in the art several months ago.

I'm no expert in the Rurouni Kenshin story so apologies if I don't get Himura Kenshin's character just right.

Shinobu

Terms –
Bakufu – Shogunal system of government
Saya – Scabbard
Kissaki – Tip of the sword
Mine – Back of the sword. Also, Mune
Ayumiashi – Footwork in which you walk normally, left, right
Furikaburi – Raising the sword
Kirioroshi – Killing cut

They call me the Hitokiri…the manslayer. I have traveled through the land, employing the sword to end the lives of many people. It is something that I am very good at. In fact, I have become known as the best hitokiri. In a world where sword styles are compared and contrasted like items at a market, I would match my Hiten Mitusugi-Ryu style against any in this disintegrating country.

Indeed, this country is coming apart at the seams. The Tokugawa Bakufu is coming down around our ears, making life more exciting for me. There is no lack of opportunity to employ my skills and further my reputation. Beyond Edo, many of the roads are no longer patrolled and people take their own chances traveling. Only the likes of the Shinsengumi still prop up the Shogunate. Talk of an Imperial restoration floats on the wind like a distant song.

This evening, I am on the hunt again. I passed through yet another nameless village in search of my quarry. I don't really care who he is. He's just another faceless statistic for me. It's just business. My contact gave me his description and the time he'd be approaching the village. All I had to do was wait. I looked West to see the last fading light of the day and noticed that dark clouds had formed over me.

A light rain began to fall and I pulled my straw hat down as I walked along the stone and dirt path from the town. In the dark, I stopped for a moment to shake off the mud that had caked my waraji sandals. I was about to light my lantern, when, through the slits in my hat, I saw a light approaching. My heart quickened a beat as I identified my quarry. I set my lantern down and my left hand grasped the saya of my weapon.

I saw the man stop. He too, had a straw hat that hid his face, but his clothes were unmistakable. He was the man I was to kill. He must have seen me grasp my weapon as he immediately threw his light to the ground, casting us both in darkness. I half expected to hear the panicked panting of a novice swordsman, but my quarry was skilled and made no sound. I took a step forward, listening in the blackness for any sign. I began to wonder if I had taken on more than I could handle. Then, an idea came to me.

I silently glided my next step off of the path to the left into the grass and then slowly slid my blade out of the saya up past my head. I leaned over to the right and, with my right hand, lowered my weapon to the ground. Tap tap. I lightly touched the rocky path with my kissaki and then waited.

I was rewarded when a swooshing sound sliced the air in front of me and I could feel the damp breeze of a missed sword cut. My training took over and I whirled my blade up in furikaburi, taking it in both hands now. I could imagine the horror in my quarry's heart, knowing he had been tricked. With ayumiashi, I strode in to just beyond where his sword had swung, and delivered kirioroshi. My blade met resistance and there was a sickening shriek. I felt warm spatter on my face and knew the taste of it. I heard a body collapse into the mud. All that was left now was to finish the ritual of my style and I flicked the blade to the side to shed the blood as my left hand grasped the saya again. Then, in a flash, I put the mine to my left hand and whirled the weapon back into its sheath to stop when only a hint of steel was left showing. Savoring the kill, I slowly closed the blade completely and continued on my way. Little did I know that I would one day abhor any killing at all, so haunted would I be at all the lives I had taken.