Kenpai - 剣輩
"This is it," my father patted my skinny body. "Today's your day, huh?"
"Yeah, oto-san," I smiled, my face slightly pale. "The finals."
"Surely you'll do fine. Remember who your ancestors are," he smiled back.
That's right. My ancestors, Ganjiang and Moye, were famous Chinese swordsmiths, and although my family is now culturally Japanese, I am still their descendant. I can't lose, and I won't.
"I know, oto-san. I won't disappoint them," I nodded.
"Well, do well, and I'll make sure I get you something nice for your birthday this coming weekend," He chuckled.
The taxi steadily ran for the rest of the trip. I was silent, trying to focus my mind before the match.
Forty minutes later, I arrived at the Paris La Défense Arena. The seats were filled; it is a big event, after all.
I quickly changed into my kendo bogu and got my shinai, and walked through the long corridor connecting the changing room to the temporary dojo that was constructed within the arena specifically for this event.
"Hey, kiddo," another person wearing bogu knocked my shoulder pad with his shinai. "Are you the kendo prodigy from Japan I heard about? The one who's never lost a single duel?"
"I have lost before," I sighed and turned to face him. This must be who I'm meant to face today. "But never to my opponent."
"Oh ho," He laughed. "We'll change that. See you out there."
He walked away. His name was Arnold Griffins. A westerner, one of these people who were known for absolute strength.
But my sword art utilizes the essence of Taichi, completely countering his power. I can't lose.
I walked out of the corridor hastily, and onto the dojo. Arnold was there. I looked at him, and he looked at me.
"Welcome back to the World Kendo Championships, youth men division! Today on the dojo, we have Reiken Kitano from Team Japan and Arnold Griffins from Team USA!"
Arnold waved enthusiastically at his crowd when they cheered for him. I simply nodded at mine.
"Not so confident now, are we?" He turned to me and said in a voice only the two of us can hear under the huge crowd.
"Confidence escalates into hubris very quickly," I closed my eyes.
"Are both Kenshi ready?" The judge asked us. We both nodded and bowed, first to our front, then to our instructors, and finally, to each other.
Then Arnold got into his starting pose, both hands on his shinai, his body straight, his feet parallel. The classic starting stance, aiming for explosive energy. I posed my body sideways, my legs slightly bent, and my shinai in my right hand, pointing up. He was slightly surprised by my starting stance - no one in the entire world starts a duel like that. Not until now.
The judge blew his whistle, and Arnold immediately let out a wild roar and charged at me. I positioned my shinai at an angle, and swung up. Our shinais collided, and I could feel his power pressuring me from above.
I spun my shinai, taking his with mine, 180 degrees, right down to the ground. All of his explosive power hit the floor. Not letting the chance slide, I charged in, my shinai aiming straight for his neck. He hastily raised his shinai in defense and blocked my attack just in time, but I was able to push him five steps back.
I followed up on my attack, moving to his side. After he steadied himself, he immediately swung his shinai at me. I suddenly stopped in my path and blocked his attack, spun it around again, this time using the Leverage technique in Taichi to borrow his strength, and used that force to swing the shinai at him. The shinai collided with his Tsuki-bu, the protective armour piece in front of his throat. The judge blew the whistle. A point for me.
When I stepped down from the dojo, I saw Arnold resting on the side. "It's first to two," He said. "You got one. And you won't get another."
"Well, you were attacking earlier," I shrugged. "It's my turn on offense now."
The judge came to us and told us our break time was over. We stepped back in the dojo, and did our bows again. And then he got into a defensive position, while I started with my right hand holding my shinai, its tip pointing straight at Arnold, and my left hand stretched away from my body towards him. My entire body was facing my right.
When I heard the whistle sound, I immediately charged at him, keeping the same stance. This is usually a terrible idea, since you expose your entire left side to your opponent, but I used this as fake.
And he fell for it. He swung his shinai, full strength, sideways towards my head. I put my strength on my left leg, which was in front, and stepped back suddenly, perfectly dodging his blade, and swung mine up simultaneously, knocking his shinai away. I then quickly dashed at him, and I hit the side of his helmet. The judge blew the whistle. I won.
"I... lost," Arnold sighed after we did our bows and walked off the dojo. "You're really a prodigy, I guess."
"Good fight. You have good strength," I patted his shoulder. It was etiquette, at least for me, to give advice to your opponent after the match. "Don't blindly follow others' stances. Use tactics that fit you the most."
I shook his hand and went back on stage to claim my trophy. He sat there, processing my words, before he was called on stage as well.
That night, in my hotel room, I was examining my newly-obtained Gold medal and World champion trophy, which looked like a shinai with a golden hilt and a glass blade on a metal base. I've done it. I've kept my promise.
It was a long day, so I slept early.