SHINOBI

by Tari Gwaemir
But you are not a samurai.

When the samurai moves, the earth trembles beneath his step. Even Tetsunosuke, with his small stature and his child's immature strength, causes the floor of the dojo to ring dully with the sound of his foot stomping against the wood as he charges against his imaginary opponent. There is an unbearably loud presence around these warriors, these bushi. They are too used to the world echoing their movements; even in stealth, they cannot be silent. The air grows heavy when they are near, and he feels his shoulders droop with the burden.

But he is not a warrior.

Shinobi are found in high places, but despite this common knowledge, most people forget to look up when anticipating an attack. It makes his work easier, to know that their senses will be alert to the people passing around them, but never notice him perched on the roof, paused within the shadows. He enjoys heights, the light touch of his feet resting on a rooftop or a tree branch, the way the world he observes so closely below grows remote and unreal. His movement is not so much a gesture as the flow of air parting around him. He leaves no sounds or traces; his step is silent.

He remembers a time when he was still a child--it seems so long ago now--spending his afternoons peeking through the doors of the dojo. Once he ventured inside, only to find himself at the center of a whirlwind: the whistling slice of bamboo against the frantic air, the bursts of feet pushing from the polished wood, the sharp exhalations of heaving lungs, and the explosion that aligned those whips of sounds together until his own cheeks seemed to sting from the sharpness of it all. He shrank back against the wall, afraid that his small body would be blown away, but he found no anchor.

He carries a sword now, but its metal does not flash and whine against the calm night air as he draws it from its sheath. His feet slide against the rooftiles, and he deftly shifts closer to his target. He is balanced precariously on a pole--the slightest touch of a breeze would tip him down into the streets below. But no breeze would venture near a shinobi. Around him, the air is ever dead and still.

END

Peace Maker Kurogane belongs to Kurono Nanae.

Written for temps_mort ("Air" challenge).

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