Chapter 4:

What True Pain Feels Like

X = Y

Days passed like the patterns on a butterfly wing, spiralling into new designs, each path unique to another, and their wings fluttering posthaste, one traversing to the other. It was Monday, the 27th of July, 2015. Rei, holding a wooden bamboo sword firmly and wearing a completely white kamishimo, received both from Seijiro. They were inside his Dojo, in the largest room. There was a sliding door at the back, which lead to another similar room. Rei stood beside his master, yielding an exceptionally concentrated look on his face. He vigorously swung his sword down whilst copying Seijiro, sweat falling from his face to the floor, and the droplets descended, effervescently, in a rhythmic pattern.Bookmark here

"There's no need to overwork yourself. Follow the pace that I am taking, Rei," said Seijiro insistently. "Stop. Come with me," he said, dropping his sword.Bookmark here

"Where are we going now, Master? Are you going to make me clean the Dojo again?" Rei remarked reluctantly.Bookmark here

Seijiro wandered up to the sliding doors at the front of the Dojo. Using a single finger, he seized the indent in one of the panels, which allowed for easier grip. Concentrating, assembling an extraordinary quantity of force, like a hurricane that devastated cities, he smashed the door shut. It generated such an impact that the entire floor of the Dojo fluctuated slightly. Rei could feel the vibrations travelling through his feet, and his legs began to tremble like the tides that sway in the ocean, oscillating like rippling water.Bookmark here

"Come over here. Try to open the door with a single finger," said Seijiro smiling, conscious of Rei's defects.Bookmark here

"You expect me to do that?" he exclaimed with a shocked tone. "I couldn't even open the door if I tried." insisted Rei. "I'll try anyway," he added, shrugging carelessly.Bookmark here

Rei strolled up to the door and placed both hands on the indent for extra grip. He pushed with all his might, planting both feet into the floor like mountains connected to the earth. His muscles began to twitch and expanded as he took a deep breath in. Subsequently, through his second attempt, veins darted out of his forehead, and he became light-headed. Sore and red, he stopped to look at his fingers.Bookmark here

"Ow ow ow ow ow! Even more ow ow ow ow!" he exclaimed, pain reverberating throughout his entire body. "What is that door made of? Heavy-duty steel? Tungsten? Titanium?" he inquired, holding one hand with the other to relieve him of pain.Bookmark here

"They're made of iron which I decorated to look like regular sliding panels. Every single panel that covers the Dojo is made of this. The inside is made with regular wood." said Seijiro with a smile that was inconsiderate to Rei's pain.Bookmark here

"If you're not here, then how am I supposed to open the door and get inside?" Rei spoke in frustration.Bookmark here

"If you become strong enough, then you can open the door with ease. If you pass the trial, then you can come and go as freely as you will. Like I said before, each Master has a test you must pass to be accepted. Even though I already accepted you, I cannot remove these doors." said Seijiro without adjusting his attitude to the situation.Bookmark here

Suddenly, abrupt knocking emerged from the door Seijiro slammed shut. He spun around to look at the door before glancing over at Rei. He quickly walked up to Rei, grabbing him by the arm whilst holding the wooden bamboo sword.Bookmark here

"Keep quiet," Seijiro whispered.Bookmark here

"Excuse me. Is anyone here?" shouted the person outside the Dojo. "We're the police. We're not here to arrest anyone. We just came here to ask questions." a voice familiar to Kei, but not Rei, shouted.Bookmark here

"They're probably here to look for me! It's taken them two days just to find this place? Did they search the entire town and it came back as cold?" Rei pondered to himself.Bookmark here

Seijiro opened the door at the back with the same amount of force that moved the entire Dojo. It led to a similar sized room at the back — the room being large and empty with a few candles, some small tables, and some pots, with a wooden shrine on the same side of the wall the door, was on.Bookmark here

"What was that?" said one of the police officers to the other. "There's someone in here. Hello?" said the familiar person with an assured tone in his voice.Bookmark here

"Where can I hide, Master?" said Rei with a worried tone and expression.Bookmark here

Seijiro ignored his plea for help. Slamming the door shut again, he caused another tremor in the Dojo. He walked closer to the centre of the room, bending his knees, positioning his fingers between the floorboards, and lifting a trapdoor. There were stone stairs that went down with torches hanging against the wall.Bookmark here

"Go down there and hide, but don't go too far. Now go, quickly!" said Seijiro, glaring seriously.Bookmark here

"Yes, Master!" said Rei with confidence.Bookmark here

Rei quickly ran down the stairs, and Seijiro slammed the trapdoor shut. Rei could hear the footsteps of his Master fading away. Upon hearing a massive slam, signalling that Seijiro opened the door to the next room, another bang followed that one, implying the door closed. After that, a third slam was audible to him whilst he continued to walk down the stairs. The ground above Rei's head shook slightly, dust falling from the ceiling, pebbles dropping, creating cracking-like sounds originating from fireworks.Bookmark here

"Great. I've found myself in a hidden tunnel underneath a Dojo. What would he use this for anyway? Is it just a basement, or is it a secret passage? Is that why he's so mysterious? The magazine that featured Master's Dojo didn't know what kind of Martial Arts he taught. They also said that they couldn't find him here most of the time." Rei thought to himself.Bookmark here

The eerily silent nature of a dark tunnel with torches on the side caused Rei to stop and re-think what he was currently doing. His legs, auguring to tremble and shake uncontrollably — as if lightning had struck him. He felt a burning sensation in his arms and stomach like a forest fire that swept his body.Bookmark here

On the surface, Seijiro paced up to the door where the police officers were now banging against the door. One of them tried to pry it open, but the door was too heavy for him to move.Bookmark here

"Why is this door so heavy? If we can't open it, then we should just move on." said the familiar police officer.Bookmark here

"We can always come back here once we find out who lives here. There should be a record at the police department." said the other female police officer with a soft voice.Bookmark here

The first police officer, who was male, as a result of trying to open the door, stopped, his fingers becoming red.Bookmark here

Pulsating with pain, the police officer could feel the blood travelling through his arteries, causing them to expand and contract. It pertained to a pipe allowing water to traverse through it, gushing at insane speeds, containing an enormous amount of pressure.Bookmark here

The door slammed open with great force, which caused another tremor. The police officers were surprised at the strength used to open it. The people standing within Seijiro's presence were Officer Sukiga Tanake and female Officer Kamei Chie — she had bright brown eyes and black hair. They were both in their police uniform.Bookmark here

"What is it that you want? Are you reporters seeking my word?" said Seijiro in an unamused, deadly voice.Bookmark here

"We're police officers from that town over there. We're looking for a boy. He went missing two days ago, and this is what he looks like." said Officer Sukiga.Bookmark here

He brought out a coloured picture from his pocket and handed it over to Seijiro. He snatched it out of Sukiga's hand and peered.Bookmark here

"Have you seen this person? He has a twin who looks like him so don't worry if you confuse the two," said Sukiga in an understanding voice.Bookmark here

"No, I haven't. Now leave. You've already tried to destroy my house." said Seijiro.Bookmark here

"You've misunderstood. We were trying to see if anyone was inside. If anything, it sounded like you were destroying your house. What were those tremors if I may ask?" said Sukiga with an assertive tone.Bookmark here

"I opened a door and closed one. That was it. Now goodbye." said Seijiro as he slammed the door with a force that caused more intolerable tremors. It also created a large gust of wind that flew past both their faces, shocking them slightly.Bookmark here

"Well, that was eventful!" said Kamei with a smile on her face. "I guess Rei Hirojima isn't here. Let's go and look somewhere else. Report back to the department to tell them where we're going next." she continued to speak.Bookmark here

"Roger that. Let's go. I parked the car past the forest." added Sukiga, both officers walking away from the Dojo.Bookmark here

Rei was at the bottom of the stone staircase, and it looked like, what he imagined to be, the netherworld. He stood there, hearing drops of water infused with echoes resonating down the hallway lit by torches.Bookmark here

"How long is Master going to take?" he thought to, surveying the dingy, dark tunnel.Bookmark here

He heard the fourth slam, then a fifth, and then a creaking of wood. Rei spun around and jogged up the stone staircase, hearing Seijiro's voice followed by footsteps.Bookmark here

"Rei? Come on out. I don't have the patience to go searching for you." said Seijiro in a restless, stern voice.Bookmark here

Seijiro took a couple of steps down, seeing Rei walking up the stairs.Bookmark here

"Oh, what a surprise," said Seijiro with a smirk on his face. "You actually listened to me. Very nice," he said.Bookmark here

"What did they want? Were they looking for me? They were, weren't they?" said Rei with a mischievous smile on his face.Bookmark here

They walked up the stairs into the Dojo, and Seijiro closed the trapdoor.Bookmark here

"You will find out what this is used for, eventually. Now get back to training. That's how your life will be, so get used to it." said Seijiro with a smile on his face.Bookmark here

"Isn't there anything else I can do? Who am I going to test my strength against?" said Rei with a bored expression.Bookmark here

"Be careful what you wish for. There's something that I've been waiting for. Someone that can test you, break you, or push you to your limits. Just wait for him to come. Now get back to work." said Seijiro with a sinister smile and expression.Bookmark here

"Okay. How long is he going to take to get here? Who is he anyway?" said Rei with an inquisitive outlook.Bookmark here

"You show no sign of terror. I can only see the admiration in your eyes. Good. Remain confident, but do not let it be your downfall. Now for the last time. Go!" said Seijiro with a serious look this time.Bookmark here

About a month passed, the seasons began shifting gently. Rei continued to practice with Seijiro, looking more and more determined. They practised together, but each time, Rei was beaten effortlessly by Master Seijiro in Kendo. Regardless of his defeat, Rei stood back up only to be constantly defeated. However, his perseverance, analogous to obstinacy, pulled him through, and Seijiro tried harder against him.Bookmark here

They cooked together, ate together, trained together, spoke to each other, and grew to laugh with each other. Rei learnt many things from Seijiro, such as gardening, lumbering, traditionally washing his clothes, creating tools, wood carving, and gathering food in the wild. They came across deer, which Seijiro tackled, wrestling them to death. Astonished by the possibility of living in the wilderness, he helped to carve the skin away and cut out the meat.Bookmark here

It was Saturday, the 29th of August, 2015 — early in the morning. Seijiro was duelling Rei with his right hand wielding his bamboo sword and his left hand behind his back. Rei gripped his sword with both hands and parried Seijiro, but he kept his composure and brought his sword back to attack Rei — who shifted into a defensive stance. Pummeled by Seijiro, who displayed no remorse, nor was he holding back, Rei fought assiduously.Bookmark here

Using his footwork, Rei moved swiftly around Seijiro, utilising the space around him to his advantage. At that moment, Rei tried to enter his blindspot adroitly, and Seijiro's prediction instantaneously manifested into reality, perfectly, lunging forward into Rei, who was still moving. His sword pushed into Rei's stomach and staggered him, sending Rei flying.Bookmark here

"Not bad. You've improved drastically. Stand up." said Master Seijiro, smirking, suppressing repletion.Bookmark here

Rei stood up slowly and held his stomach. "You couldn't have held back, could you?" grinning roguishly. "That's hurts so bad. I think you've punched a hole in my stomach," he added with a smile.Bookmark here

"Don't be ridiculous. There's no way that I would-" said Seijiro, who halted his talk abruptly.Bookmark here

They both turned around, and someone slammed open the heavy sliding doors. It was a man in his twenties who was wearing a completely black kamishimo. He removed his right hand from the door and entered. He had the blackest eyes and the darkest hair tied up in a ponytail, which flowed down to his neck. The front of his hair, which parted to either side of his face, went up to his shoulders.Bookmark here

"Did he just open that heavy door with a single hand?" Rei thought to himself.Bookmark here

"Hello! Hello! Hello!" the man said in an ecstatic voice, with an enormous smile on his face. "Here you go, Master!" he said, throwing a pouch that produced a jingling sound.Bookmark here

Seijiro caught it and opened the pouch to discover its contents. He closed the bag and spun around to hide his smile.Bookmark here

"It took you long enough, Nagai," said Seijiro.Bookmark here

"Hey! Hey! Hey! Who's this?" said Nagai. He ran up to a frightened Rei who could do nothing but watch. "A new student? I thought they were rare. Wait, I'm the only student Master has. Who are you?" he exclaimed in a loud voice, moving closer to Rei.Bookmark here

"I'm Rei Hirojima," said Rei with slight confusion and terror in his voice.Bookmark here

"How long has he been here since I left? Have you been here for two months?" Nagai said.Bookmark here

"Introduce yourself, Nagai," added Seijiro with a stern look.Bookmark here

Seijiro walked away and opened the door to the other room with a mighty slam. He closed the door behind him, causing another tremor.Bookmark here

"Oh yeah! I'm Nagai Noboyuki. You can call me brother if you'd like. Don't call me Noboyuki. Nagai will do just fine!" he said with his spirits high.Bookmark here

The door to the other room slammed open again. Seijiro appeared and closed the door with a single hand. He threw a wooden bamboo sword at Nagai, which he caught with ease.Bookmark here

"Show him, Nagai. Where your effort has been going for these past ten years," said Seijiro with his arms crossed.Bookmark here

"Ten years? That's how long you've been here for?" exclaimed Rei, surprised by the discovery.Bookmark here

"I'm guessing Master wants us to spar, so let's do this!" said Nagai with an innocent smile on his face.Bookmark here

"Yep. Ignore my question." Rei thought to himself.Bookmark here

They stood facing each other whilst Seijiro sat down on the side with his eyes closed. Nagai assumed a stance Rei was unfamiliar with as he charged towards Nagai, swinging his sword with fury. However, Rei writhing in pain, realising too late, his hip was assaulted. Holding his abdomen in pain and staggering around, he fell to one side.Bookmark here

"Wow! Wow! Wow! Are you okay brother? Did I use too much power?" Nagai said, running up to Rei, verifying if he was breathing.Bookmark here

"That is the level you wished to be at, Rei. Work hard alongside Nagai. There is still the larger world that I have to show you that Nagai is a part of. You will see eventually...eventualities always happen. They always happen. Never forget the pain, for pain leads to growth, and growth leads to victory." said Seijiro, shutting his eyes, meditating serenely.Bookmark here

Nagai sat down next to him with a smile on his face. He placed his arm around Rei.Bookmark here

"Do you want to know about the world Master is talking about? You learn so much from it, and you get to fight so many strong people. It's a way to earn money. When you're ready, come and join me. We can make a lot of money for Master so we can continue our way of living!" said Nagai with an unparalleled spirit that surged through the sky.Bookmark here

"A way of living...Like this? There are people stronger than me that I can fight? Nagai is way stronger, but I just have to work harder. Then I'm coming for them..." thought Rei to himself.Bookmark here

Thus, Rei now had an upperclassman — and older person — who he could learn from and admire. With it, he realised he could learn everything through someone relatable. Rei's journey into darkness was yet to begin, and the light at the end of his tunnel began to glow.Bookmark here

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