The blind man cannot see the stretch of glittering steel. An extension of my own arm. From the tips of my fingers the blade, a slight curve at the edge. A sword is not a sentient entity on its own, but in my hand, my sword lives. There is no poetry in it. It is the truth, sharp and quick as death.
White gloved finger-tips, not a caress on the cold metal, but a question posed against it.
The muscles in my legs tense. I lower to the ground. I ask of my sword. My sword asks of me. It is the life of the blade -- without the blade, the swordsman is nothing. Without the swordsman, the blade is impotent and lifeless. Together, the swordsman and the blade are sharper than the blade itself, are stronger than the metal, are swifter than the swordsman, are of the keen intelligence and of the dependable strength of the weapon melded to its master.
The blade has taken of my sheer stubbornness. The blade has drunk it in from my fingertips. It has acquired the same nature.
We are of one stance. One curve of my back, one curve of my arm, one curve of my sword. This catches the light. The metal is in my eyes, and the blind man does not see the way it glints and my eyes catch that glinting, and we are of one light-on-metal, light-on-gold. There is no poetry in this. There is the same question, passed from my fingers to the blade.
You can tell a swordsman by the way he stands.
Himura-san walks with his toes turned out, and his eyes pretending to be sightless. The straightness in his back, a tensed, coiling of muscles, a cat ready to leap, a tiger pretending to be a kitten. An actor of the best kind, though he cannot fool those who have eyes in their fingertips.
If I were blind, I would feel from the edge of my blade the way his muscles are poised beneath his skin, stretched and oiled and ready. When his hand rests on the air above the handle of his sword the air stills around him, holding its breath. He asks of his sword, waiting.
Hitokiri Battousai was of a different sort. There was no ending of the sword and beginning of the swordsman. There was a man made of metal. The metal was in his eyes. He was an opponent, dangerous and fierce, a tiger with claws bared and no weaknesses for he had no remorse. He was light on the air and a blur through it.
First here, sword raised.
There next, sword lowered.
Last, comes at you, the point faced out, body ready, sword ready.
He did not need to ask of the sword the age old question. It was ingrained into them. They were one and the same, not old, old friends.
Shi Shi O. A man of poise and of strength and of no morals, perhaps like myself. His blade has no remorse. His body and his life force has been poured into the metal, into the mould of his sword. A swordsman who breathes from the blade that stretches out from his fingertips and his palm, flesh to metal without noticing a change.
He has left no corner unprotected. He has left no angle unheeded. He has left no openings.
His only weakness, therefore, is the fallibility of a human.
A man is not a sword. A man's body will give in, sooner or later, no matter how strong the sword is.
The most disconcerting weapon is a smile.
He knows this well. Wears this well. His sword is strong, but his spirit is weakened by an anger that rages to be free.
Sagara Sanosuke --
Is no swordsman.
To become one with your blade, you must give up the emotion which makes your vision go red. To become one with your blade, you must make sacrifices of yourself to the steel. To become one with your blade, your mind must be sharper than your heart.
Sagara Sanosuke is no swordsman.
Shinomori Aoshi is lacking the heart to be great. The ice which shows in his eyes speaks of a deeper chill. He is detached from rage, but that is merely one step. To sheet over emotion, to pretend it does not exist, is to deny your blade, and to deny yourself greatness.
To seek greatness with your focused pinpointed hollowly at a single goal is to fail before you even begin.
Usui is nothing.
There are great tears in my thighs, with the blood hot and sticking to the blue fabric against the skin. He smells the blood and like an animal, he gets cocky, proud. He thinks that because my stance does not change and my attack remains the same, over and over, I am a man who does not change with the times, I am stuck in the past, I am hiding behind this one attack.
Usui is a fool.
From where the blood makes my pants legs sticky and moist and makes my muscles rage, my strength begins to flow faster, hotter, thicker, fiercer. It is a flattery to his pride, to let him get such wounds on my body, and a test to myself, to see how it is he works. He thinks that the loss of one sense has made him keen to all his others. His sense of smell, his sense of touch, his sense of hearing.
I bear my teeth in a smile and wonder if this blind man can feel a wolf grin in the darkness.
Over and over, the same lunge, the same speed through the air. It is not stubbornness. It is certainly not poetry.
It is the truth. I will do this, again and again, and there will be failure, perhaps, and another failure, and there will be rents in the flesh of my thigh and the tearing, ripping of the muscles, and the blood stains to remind me.
It is the truth.
In the end, my blade, which is hungry, will find his flesh, which is weak. I am patient. My blade is less so. Together we balance each other out, half-man, half-steel, half-beast and half-weapon. My fingertips brush along the edge of the blade and it does not bite but it howls like a wolf to the moon.
It is the question I ask. Are you ready? The sword shivers like flesh cannot, a glinting in the darkness, burning but cool.