Chapter One – The Fugitive
Even the way I sit cross-legged on the floor is a lie. Head tilted forward, eyes half shut, I sit on the heal of my left foot. My gaze focused on the candle flame, a saffron mained ballerina twirls around her soot blackened pool. Her azure skirt bellowing, and waining with the slight shift in the currents of my breath. What drives some to madness and others to self-discovery I quiet the internal dialog as I slow my breathing and empty my mind. Images flow thru my mind’s eye without attachment, time slows and then stops. All of my senses fully open and acute as the pit of my stomach and the hair on the back of my neck informs me I am not alone. The image of a train dropping from an opening vortex above my head, along with the whistle of razor sharp steel whipping towards my neck. I wait until the intention pushes me out of the way. The force of malice rolling me backward over my left shoulder as I draw my soul from its home of black lacquered wood and slice up horizontally in one velvet movement.
My attacker crumples as the katana cleanly melts a path through muscle, bone, and tendon. Mouth open his head lays in the spreading ruby pool even as the ring of steel upon hardwood floor echoes. Death has come once again and left satisfying his hunger with his servant rather than his target. My tiny dancer has also left, extinguished by a drop of crimson splashed upon her skirt. I raise and perform chiburi, the ritual cut removing gore from my brilliantly polished katana automatically. As practiced thousands of times, my soul returns home to be cleaned properly later, while reflecting on this last attempt upon my life.
For the last three years, I have survived attempt upon attempt for retribution of an offense against a man I have never met. His daughter, my lover the cause for my status as fugitive. Thirteen times, I have dodged death with one cut and one kill as the hunter has become the hunted. I know that in order to end this chase I must kill once more. I must extinguish the flame of a living legend, the teacher of my teacher. One of the most respected and greatest masters of Kobujutsu, ancient warrior arts, must have the veil of life’s illusion removed from his eyes. In order to explain my current dilemma and enigma I must start at the beginning. My recruitment by the Cadre, training in the ancient craft of the shadow warrior assassin, and my work killing people for political and financial gain. I am a civil servant working in the darkness delivering a message with no return address.