Chapter 2:

The Truth of a Matter

X = Y

It began to rain heavily. The roads became wet, submerged in water. Rei walked alone with his hood up to cover his face, alienated from the world he prized. What looked like tears running down his face was the rain that continued to drench his clothes. In the middle of the night, Rei walked past his house, recognising it only when he reached the end of the road.

He stopped to turn around, understanding that only ash remained, his parents nowhere to be seen, the thought of them lingered in his cognisance. Hallucinating, the particulates of ash formed silhouettes of his parents, and the rain created residual static across them, like that on an old-fashioned television, blurring the images he beheld. There was no one around but himself. A slight breeze hit his face, awakening to reality, his senses still active, also causing the leaves in the greenery around him to jostle redolently. He turned his head around frantically to see if his parents were still alive as he clung to the thread of hope in his heart.

To no avail, and without being surprised, Rei turned around and continued walking further and further into the forest outside his hometown. He walked and walked, contemplating to himself about the events that had occurred that night. Each step he took grew louder, sounding like a shriek that scraped the inside of his eardrum.

He told himself, disregarding his safety, he would walk as far as possible to defeat the gang that immolated his house. The sounds of crackling emanated through his ear canal, and the vivid images of his burning house plagued his mind.

Eventually, he reached a house close to the mountain that looked like one from the Feudal Period of Japan. It was made of wood and had the same aesthetics, unlike modern homes unfamiliar to Rei.

"This is the place, isn't it? The one in the magazine. The one that talked about a crazy Master who still thinks this is 1560, and we're going to go to war again. No one's around. Either that or they're asleep. This place is in the middle of nowhere! There's just forest and some more forest. Oh, and some forest over there. Look, what a surprise! More forest!" Rei thought to himself.

He began to look around the house, noticing the doors consisted of old sliding panels with a grid-like pattern on them that had thin wooden support beams. Rei found a garden behind the house that had a plethora of plants. He could see lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, and even rice paddies in orderly lines that stretched back an absurd distance.

"They may be right. Whoever it is actually gardens. But why do they have this much produce? There are shops in town, but they're a long way from here. How many people live here then?" he thought.

He tried to see if anyone was around but was unsuccessful. The rain continued to hit his face, drenching him with water. Each raindrop felt like a spear penetrating his skin — turning the psychological trauma he experienced into physical pain. He resonated with the sound of rain, no matter how disorderly or chaotic it seemed to him. Whilst looking up at the sky, his eyes began to blur from the outside, eventually coming closer to the centre of his eye. He began to feel drowsy, trying to slide open the front door but experienced difficulty moving it.

"It's locked from the inside. Why is this door so heavy? How do they get in then? Why am I trespassing? What am I doing here? Why did all of this have to happen! It's because of them! They did all of this! I can't go back now. I've made it this far, so I'm going to stand confident and back my own decision." Rei pondered to himself. He sat outside the door and fell asleep eventually.

The night passed, and the next day was signalled by the Sun awakening, as it slowly floated above the horizon, with the rain subsiding. A man wearing a kamishimo — red trousers and a white top — slid open the door with great force. He had long black hair tied up in a ponytail, which ran down to the lower portion of his back and the darkest of eyes. His face had three scars that went down his left cheek shallowly. He was in his forties, but he bore no grey hairs. He was slightly taller than Rei and was well built. He peered carefully at Rei's slumped body which was resting against his house.

"Why is there a boy here? How long has he even been here?" the man wondered to himself, staring at Rei.

"Wake up! Hey! Wake up!" he exclaimed as he bent down on his knees to shake Rei's body.

Rei eventually woke up and rubbed his eyes. Pausing for a moment, he looked up to the man and stood up.

"Who are you? Go home if you're looking to interview me," he said in a grumpy voice. "If you have nothing to speak to me about then leave and do not come back," he added.

"Interview? I'm not here for that. I'm looking for the Master of this Dojo. I came here to learn a fighting style." said Rei with vigour and contempt.

"You're here to learn a fighting style? For what reason?" the Master replied.

"Teach me how to fight! I want to defeat someone in a fight! I want to take him down and make him pay for what he's done." said Rei with hatred glowing in his eyes and a voice full of hardship.

"Go home. I don't teach people to fight for vengeance. That is a pathetic reason I've heard time and time again. It does nothing except take away from your character." responded the Master in a harsh tone.

The Master slowly began to walk away through the doors that Rei had trouble opening. Rei followed him into the house, standing there waiting for the Master.

"They killed my parents! They're not going to stop killing people to fulfil their own selfish desires! Please! I'm begging you..." exclaimed Rei, as he fell to his knees, crying furiously.

Rei rubbed his eyes, but the harder he tried to wipe his tears, the more that fell. The Master turned around and looked at Rei, who had sunken into his desperation and remorse.

"I don't know what to do...I didn't know what to do...When my house burnt down! Please! I left my brother, and my parents are dead! I have nothing! Nothing left to give, and nothing left to take!" said Rei, his speech becoming distorted by his emotions and the sound of his cry.

The Master slowly strode up to him and sat in front of him, kneeling on the floor. Rei stopped crying and looked up, gazing directly into his inescapable eyes. The stare the Master gave pierced his heart as Rei completely stopped moving, only allowing him to stare back.

"What is your name, young one?" said the Master.

"Rei Hirojima." responded Rei.

"Do you know what my name is? You came here with a strong intent in your eyes, and you know who I am presumably." the Master replied in a questioning tone.

Rei shook his head, wiping the tears from his eyes simultaneously. "I don't know. I found out about this Dojo from a magazine. It had information about fighting and national tournaments that held competitions for fighting styles like Judo. This place was the closest so I thought I could enrol."

"You're talking about those journalists who think they can trespass for the sake of obtaining information, and that is justified because everyone should have the power to obtain knowledge. I haven't given my name willingy to anyone new in a long time. Tell me, one last time, why I should take you as my student." responded the Master in a seriously deadly tone.

Rei was surprised by his demeanour at first and felt an overwhelming amount of pressure. He took a deep breath and composed himself to respond. However, many thoughts rushed through his mind. "He doesn't want me to talk about revenge. He hates revenge." he thinks to himself. Suddenly, a realisation hits Rei's face as he became slightly surprised. "Is that what I've become. A creation of my own revenge? A thing that wants to hurt people? Why did I forget what my father told me? There's always something greater to look towards. If you find it, then you find something greater in yourself."

The Master interrupted his thought process and stared at Rei sternly, recognising the shift in his eyes, composure, and expression.

"Thus you have realised. You are the one who decides whether they enjoin the good or forbid the evil. Sometimes people are forced into it because of how they are brought up. But what never disappears is the power a person has to change. So, tell me. What is your reason now?"

"I want to find out who killed my parents in a fire that happened yesterday night. I want to stop them so no one else suffers. I want to shake them to the core with my own justice, and make them understand how I felt. I want to stop their evil!" said Rei, anger burning in his eyes, a glare emitting spirit.

"We can work on your sense of justice and your reason later. I will take you on as a student, but you will promise me that you will never do anything out of hatred, nor will your drive stem from your desire to seek revenge. Those attributes will only weaken your heart and disrupt your thinking. Your front will be as vulnerable as your back. Your mind will be open for any attacks and your soul will waver in a crucial moment." the Master spoke seriously.

"I understand, Master. I still do not know your name. What it is, if you don't mind me asking." Rei asked.

"My name? That is but a simple matter. I am Seijiro Kirihoshin. I do not teach hand-to-hand combat styles. What I teach is the true heart and soul of a Samurai. Kendo. But not what you see from modern-day Kendo. It is the truer essence of Kendo. True swordsmanship. In a similar fashion to how people identify a sword style, my sword style has a name. But you will learn it with time, and its name will remain hidden to you until you are worthy enough to master it." said Seijiro in a stern voice.

He talked for a lengthy amount of time, which caused Rei to focus. But he eventually lost that focus, and his fatigue grew. His belly rumbled loudly, which captured the attention of Seijiro.

"It sounds like my stomach wanted to stop you from talking, Master," said Rei with a smile on his face. "Do you know of anyone who can teach me hand-to-hand combat?"

"There's an entire world that I can introduce you to. I'm not the only one who lives like this. There is an entire community that thrives on fighting with their life at stake and gaining knowledge through it. If you are ready, then I can take you to those who wield the greatest strength and the best techniques. Judo. Taekwondo. Karate. Muay Thai. Boxing. If you desire so, you can learn them all. But for each one you wish to learn, you have to gain the approval of the master." said Seijiro in a confident voice.

"I don't have a home to go to. Can I live here until I find somewhere to stay, Master?" said Rei in a saddened voice.

"I'll work you to the bone if you want to stay. You're not going to be living here for free. If you wish to live, then you must know how to sustain yourself. When you die, you die alone. But when you live, you live with everyone. The memories you have and the memories people have of you are proof that you were once alive. The things you make people feel are things they never forget. Remember that, young one. Your journey starts here, and you'd best pay attention and listen to what I say. Now, do you think you are ready?" said Seijiro with a smirk on his face.

"Yes, Master!" Rei exclaimed, mustering all the confidence and courage, within himself, in that instance.

"Now stand up. You must be hungry from your journey here. I do not care, nor do I wish to know where you came from or who you truly are. All I need to know is what kind of a person you are, and I will guide you into becoming a righteous, just person. I will give you the mould and you will fill it in. If you are not careful, the final product will be an odd shape with many inconsistencies. If you are not prudent, the mould which may contain many impurities will overflow and you will waste your effort cleaning the mess you created. If you become lazy, then the mould will never be filled to the top." said Seijiro, standing up and walking away.

The beginning of Rei's journey continued, and his courage and confidence pulled him through the thickest of fog that clouded his heart; a haze made of doubt, self-disbelief, and despair.

With the assistance of his Master, Rei, grateful for this opportunity, had a newfound admiration for him, growing like a sapling in rich soil. With it, bestowed by destiny, he strived towards becoming the warrior of justice his Master envisioned.